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Incorporating the Official Report of the Expedition of 1953 


Translated and additional material supplied by 




Published 1954 

by Elek Books Ltd. 

14 Great James St., 

London, W.C.I. 

and simultaneously in Canada by the 

Ryerson Press, 

299 Queen Street, 

Toronto 2b 



Printed in Great Britain 

by Page Bros. (Norwich) Ltd., 


In Memory of my Brother 


In affection and esteem 




Chapter Page 























INDEX 249 


Colour Plates 

Hermann Buhl's ice-axe on the Summit Firn. Frontispiece 

facing page 

Walter Frauenberger fixing the memorial tablet to Willy Merkl, Willo 
Welzenbach and Uli Wieland on the Moor's Head 64 

The Sentinels around Camp II 136 

Pitching tents in Camp III 144 

Evening in Camp III 176 

East Ar&e and Silver Saddle 192 

Hermann Buhl on the East ArSte of Nanga Parbat 212 
View across the Moor's Head towards the south wall of Nanga Parbat 224 

Hunza porters descending from Camp III 230 

Monochrome Plates 

Between Pages 32 and 33 

Willy Merkl. The Diamir face of Nanga Parbat. Profile of the Diamir face. 
Southern precipices of Nanga Parbat. The route to Camp IV. 

Between Pages 48 and 49 

Street scene in Gilgit. Dancing Hunzas. The Gilgit Policeman. The victorious 
team. Pipe band of Gilgit scouts. Tracks on the moraine approaching Camp I. 
Edelweiss in the Base Camp meadow. Ice avalanche between Camps I and II. 
An ice avalanche endangering the route between Camps I and II. A great 
crevasse in the Rakhiot Glacier Ice-fall. 

Between Pages 104 and 105 

The Climbers: Dr. Karl M. Herrligkoffer. Peter Aschenbrenner. Fritz Aumann. 
Dr. Walter Frauenberger. HansErtl. Albert Bitterling. Hermann Buhl. Kuno 
Rainer. Hermann Kdllensperger. Otto Kempter. The interim Base Camp in 
the Fairy Meadow. Two Porters: Ali Madad, A Porter from Tato. 


Between Pages 112 and 113 

The Rakhiot Bridge. The Rakhiot Glacier and Rakhiot Valley. The Climbers 
listening to the news of the conquest of Everest. At Talichi. Base Camp with the 
Great Chongra Peak in the background. North East slopes of Nanga Parbat. 
The Astor Bridge in the Gilgit Valley. The road between Gilgit and the Rakhiot 

Between Pages 128 and 129 

Climbing over the Buldar ridge. Fresh snow at Base Camp. Base Camp against 
the Rakhiot Glacier. The Great Ice-fall between Camps I and II. Camp I with 
a view towards the Chongra group. Camp I. Porters going up to Camp II. In 
the Rakhiot Ice-fall. Camp II. Porters descending from Camp II. 

Between Pages 160 and 161 

Camp II in the Ice-fall of the Upper Rakhiot Glacier. Porters' tents in Camp II. 
Ascent to Camp III. Camp III with the Rakhiot Peak in the background. 

Between Pages 208 and 209 

Camp III on the highest plateau of the Rakhiot Firn. On the eve of the final 
assault. Laborious trail-making on the way to Camp III. Camp III against the 
Silver Saddle. Se"racs in the Rakhiot Glacier. Temperature check at Camp IV. 
Bridging a crevasse in the lower Rakhiot Ice-fall. 

. Between Pages 2 1 6 and 2 1 7 

South wall of the Summit massif from Camp IV. The summit massif and the 
precipitous south face into the Rupal Valley. Silver Saddle, Silver Plateau, and 
the summit of Nanga Parbat from the east. Silver Plateau. Jubilation on Buhl's 
return from the summit. Buhl after his return from his successful assault on the 
summit. The precipitous flank of Nanga Parbat north summit. 

Between Pages 220 and 221 

View towards the north-east summit of Nanga Parbat. The north-east flank of 
Nanga Parbat. 

Facing Page 234 
Reception in Gilgit, 


WITH THEIR splendid ascent of Nanga Parbat the Austro- 
German expedition has brought to a triumphant conclusion an 
epic story of endeavour and sacrifice which is as close to the 
hearts of all Austrian and German mountaineers as that of 
Everest to us British. Nanga Parbat is among the first eight or 
nine highest summits in the world and, because of its heavy 
glaciation and the climatic conditions prevailing in that region, 
one of the most formidable mountaineering problems in the 
Himalaya. Although it was first attempted by a famous English 
climber Mummery, with two British companions and a few 
Gurkhas towards the end of the last century, it has becomes 
peculiarly German preserve owing to the gallant attempts of 
three expeditions composed of Austro-German mountaineers 
during the 1930s. These efforts failed with heavy loss of life. 
No small part of the tribute due to that fine climber, their 
leader Aschenbrenner, is that he has succeeded this year with- 
out accidents or injuries in his party. 

We of the British Everest team salute our Austro-German 
comrades ; in doing so, we honour the deeds of Willy Merkl, 
Paul Bauer and other fine climbers who went before them. 

June, 1953 JOHN HUNT. 


DR. KARL HERRLIGKOFFER, organizer of the Willy Merkl Mem- 
orial Expedition to Nanga Parbat, was in the summer of 1953 
able to fulfil a sacred trust. During the decade 1930-40 many of 
Germany's best climbers and with them their faithful porters, 
lost their lives in assaults on this tragic mountain. In taking up 
the challenge in 1953 Karl Herrligkoffer assumed a great 

Every member of the victorious team is to be congratulated on 
his skill and courage in the face of extraordinary difficulties and 
none will fail to acknowledge also the unusual organizing ability 
and sheer determination of the author of this book. 

The Munich Branch of the German Alpine Club, whose junior 
members, trained in the school of Dr. Leuch, had produced 
men of Himalayan calibre in previous years, was able to make a 
significant contribution to this enterprise, for out of a team of 
ten, no less than three were Munich Branch men. For this reason 
alone we felt closely identified with the expedition and supported 
it without reservation. 

All Germans, not only mountaineers, must rejoice that the 
Nanga Parbat Expedition of 1953 has done so much to enhance 
the nation's prestige. 


President of the Munich Branch 
of the German Alpine Club. 

Munich, 20th November, 1953. 



to the German edition 

HIMALAYA, legendary mountain world of Asia, about it the aura 
which transfigures everything in this world that seems vast, 
perilous and inaccessible ! Once it was the undiscovered conti- 
nents, later the unknown interiors of Africa and Asia, and more 
recently the two poles which challenged the explorers of every 
nation. To-day man is lured by the highest peaks of the world's 
mountains and by the unfathomable depths of the seas. 
Material considerations of purpose and usefulness have no place 
in his thoughts. 

This question of the ultimate purpose of expeditions of 
exploration has always been a matter of controversy. On the 
one hand are those who are utterly out of sympathy with 
enterprise of this nature, regarding it in fact with scorn. But 
there are always others, albeit few, who recognize victory even 
in defeat when the struggle has been for a high ideal. Indeed a 
taste for adventure is of the very essence of human nature. 

Actually every Himalayan expedition can claim some con- 
siderable accomplishment in the field of scientific research but 
this cannot compare with the glorious achievement of men like 
Scott, Amundsen, Nansen, Wegener, Irvine, and Mallory, or, 
on Nanga Parbat, of Mummery, Merkl, Welzenbach, Wieland, 
Wien and Fankhauser, who invested their seemingly purposeless 
striving with the glory of unsurpassed heroism. 

Before passing on to my account of the Nanga Parbat 
Expedition of 1953 I wish to record my sincere gratitude to the 
original publisher of this book, Herr Otto Spatz of J. F. 
Lehmanns Verlag, Munich. He demonstrated his confidence in 
the project by promising financial backing at a very early stage 
and remained our steadfast supporter and champion throughout 
the period of the expedition. 

The meteorological appendix to the German edition 


Nanga Parbat 

by Professor Flohn of Bad Kissingen is based on the weather 
observations made on the mountain by Albert Bitterling of 
Berchtesgaden. I am also indebted to Professor Dr. Reichel 
of Munich for advice on matters of high altitude physiology. 

Munich, Christmas 1953. 



THREE GREAT Himalayan ascents Annapurna, then Everest, 
now Nanga Parbat have been crowded into the first three 
years of this half-century. The men who reached these sublime 
heights climbed on the shoulders of their great predecessors 
and were supported by expeditions which involved highly com- 
plex organization and prodigious finance. Nonetheless, the 
spirit which inspires this hazardous high altitude climbing is so 
little taken for granted, even by its exponents, that no published 
account of a mountaineering expedition now seems to be com- 
plete unless it carries, like a flag, its attempt at self-justification, 
even if this takes the typically understated form of the British 
assertion that "we climb Everest because it is there." 

It is clear that the climbing of mountains means different 
things to different nationalities, and again to different indi- 
viduals. It is also true that individual climbers have special 
"feelings" about certain mountains. The relationship of the 
German climbers to the fabulous mountain of Nanga Parbat 
whose summit finally fell to their assault in 1953 was something 
unique, being strangely strong and close. The late F. S. Smythe 
has recorded that when he and Eric Shipton proposed making an 
attempt on Nanga Parbat they received indignant letters from 
Germany to the effect that the mountain was Germany's and 
that it was unsporting of a British expedition to try. This rela- 
tionship was compounded of fascination and dread, and had 
gestated for years in a soil of unimaginable tragedy. 

Dr. HerrligkofFer's book is a highly individual account of a 
highly individual enterprise and the translator stands between 
the work in its original form and a reading public, not only of 
another language but with different standards, a different back- 
ground and with different habits of thought. The justification 
for a Translators' Introduction is that it should form a bridge 


Nanga Parbat 

over which the written work may pass from one climate into 

By the time the Nanga Parbat expedition of 1953 was launched 
no fewer than thirty-one men, climbers and porters, had perished 
on the mountain, some of them in circumstances, the very 
thought of which was unendurable to their surviving comrades. 
The years 1934 and 1937, when the German teams met with 
unparalleled disaster, sound like death knells in the history of 
Himalayan climbing, and while the expedition of 1938 returned 
unsuccessful but intact, the climbers in that year had had the 
gruesome experience of finding on their route some of the corpses 
of 1934. Not surprisingly in 1953, every minor ailment, every 
storm, every avalanche, every landmark, yes, every date for 
the ascent was always made at the same season was invested 
with the power to bring dark memories crowding in. Indeed the 
expedition was launched as a memorial, and it was the avowed 
aim of the climbers to "fulfil a sacred trust" and to put the seal 
of victory on the efforts of the dead. The rousing send-off from 
home, the thrill of the voyage out and the air-trip to the foot- 
hills, the keen anticipation of the approach, the comradeship of 
the evenings in camp such hearty enjoyments are part and 
parcel of a Himalayan expedition, but in this case a gloomy 
sense of foreboding was always near the surface, ready to break 
through at the slightest hint of adversity. 

There was yet another factor which introduced a sombre 
undercurrent. Karl Herrligkoffer is a half-brother of Willy 
Merkl, hero of Nanga Parbat, who in 1934 died the most 
lingering and tragic death of all. Dr. Herrligkoffer's enthusiasm, 
which swept all before it in the organizing of the expedition, 
sprang more from admiration for his dead kinsman than from 
an expert knowledge of Himalayan climbing of which he had 
no direct experience. In 1939 a crack team had been sent out to 
Nanga Parbat under the auspices of the German Himalaya 
Foundation to reconnoitre an alternative route. This route was 
deemed to be feasible and plans had already been laid to launch 
a full-scale expedition over the new route in 1940, when the 
Second World War intervened. Dr. Herrligkoffer who proposed 
to follow the old Merkl route, had to surmount much opposition 


Translators' Introduction 

and even antagonism from official German climbing circles and 
had to organize and equip his expedition quite independently 
with none of the support and backing such as the successful 
Everest expedition of the same year could claim. It seems pos- 
sible, therefore, that the team's will to prove itself and to succeed 
was intensified, not only by a sense of obligation to the dead, 
but also by this initial struggle for its very existence. Moreover, 
while the climbers were storm-bound in the intermediate camps 
news came through of the British success on Everest. It is 
recorded that this made them feel "doubly committed" to their 
task, one of the climbers going so far as to say that now they 
must succeed and if possible without_oxygen. Thus the team was 
thrice goaded. How different was this tense struggle from the 
calm, detached attitude of the sportsman. 

That this general state of tension should have produced 
tensions within the team itself seems almost inevitable; yet, as 
Dr. Herrligkoffer says, seen over the perspective of the years to 
come it is the achievement and the achievement alone which 
will remain. Its periphery of unhappy circumstances will have 
been entirely forgotten. 

Although each succeeding Himalayan expedition has been 
more and more elaborately planned and equipped, Hermann 
Buhl in his solo dash to the summit of Nanga Parbat, without 
tent, food or oxygen equipment, steps clear of the contemporary 
network of logistic planning and takes one right back to 1895 
and A. F. Mummery, who led the first expedition of all to 
Nanga Parbat. Mummery, like Buhl, was fond of striking 
out alone and chancing his arm. But, as Smythe has said, 
Mummery climbed "simply and solely for the fun of the thing". 
There was precious little fun in the German approach to Nanga 
Parbat. At the time when Buhl was fighting his grim battle 
against exhaustion on the Silver Saddle, his comrades, not far 
away, were fixing a memorial tablet to the dark granite crag on 
the East Arete known as the Moor's Head and conducting a 
ceremony to honour the dead. Dr. Herrligkoffer at Base Camp 
had by means of the radio connection with the high camps 
urged rescue operations without delay but had received only a 
negative answer which he records without comment. This 


Nanga Parbat 

incident expresses the heavy mood of the whole enterprise 
which moved up the mountain weighed down by thoughts of 
doom and death. 

The story of Nanga Parbat is a long one. It is a tragic and in 
many ways a puzzling story. Human nature, ever inexhaustible, 
offers here another facet for study. But Nanga Parbat has been 
climbed. The dead in their vast and icy tomb may sleep. 

It is the pleasant duty of the translators to acknowledge their 
indebtedness to Major T. S. Blakeney, Secretary of the Alpine 
Club, to Mr. C. J. O. Harrison of the Library Staff of the Royal 
Geographical Society, and to Mr. G. J. Evans, Librarian of the 
Meteorological Office, Harrow. Thanks are also due to the 
Himalayan Club and to the Editor of the Himalayan Journal, 
Colonel H. W. Tobin, for his kind permission to quote from 
the Journal 

London, May 1954 






The Mountain 

The British Expedition of 1895 

The German- American Expedition of 1932 

The German Expedition of 1934 

The German Expedition of 1937 

The German Expedition of 1938 

The Reconnaissance of 1939 

The Winter Escapade of 1950 

Erwin Schneider's Summing Up 

'Fullest use has been made of the 
short chapter GESCHICHTLICHER 
UBERBUCK in the official report of 
the 1953 Expedition by Dr. Karl 


The Mountain 

THE PROBLEMS which confront the climber in the Himalaya are 
of a quite different order from those which are likely to be 
encountered in the Alps. In the latter case the mountaineer is 
required to make a supreme mental and physical effort for the 
maximum period of a few days. The Himalaya demand that this 
strain be endured for weeks, even months on end. A severe 
Alpine ascent requires the climber to make an immense effort 
of will leading up to a quick all-out thrust. In the Himalaya the 
decisive factor is the ability to sustain effort and expend energy 
over a protracted period of exposure and strain. Tolerance, 
co-operation and readiness to subordinate personal ambition 
to the common objective, while not excluding the ability to 
carry on alone if necessary these are the formidable demands 
the mountains of the Himalaya make of those who would climb 

After the German- American Himalayan expedition of 1932, 
Nanga Parbat became known as the German mountain of the 
East. She stands, 26,620 feet high, forming the westernmost 
bastion of the 1,500 mile long Himalaya range, near the 
northern border of Kashmir, in one of the strategically most 
important areas of the world, isolated by the rigid frontiers of 
Tibet to the east, Chinese Turkestan (Sinkiang) to the north 
and Soviet Russia to the north-west. Another frontier has 
sprung up of late close to the southern face of the mountain: 
the cease-fire line, guarded by the United Nations, which now 
divides Kashmir into two hermetically sealed halves. The 
summit lies in the Pakistani-held north-western border 


Nanga Parbat 

territory and is now cut off from its Indian-held hinterland, the 
famous Vale of Kashmir, from which the early expeditions set 
out. To-day the high Babusar Pass has become the only surface 
approach which lies entirely within Pakistan. This approach 
keeps to the west of the mountain and leads into the gorge of 

<t V^^"" 

X * /v^~A/ft 

Map of Kashmir 

the Indus river which skirts the mountain to the north. The old, 
now blocked, "Gilgit Road" leads from Srinagar in the Vale 
of Kashmir along an old caravan route astride the eastern flank 
of the mountain and also runs into the Indus gorge to the 

Most famous peaks of Central Asia rise from amidst a 
cluster or chain of similarly high peaks and their superior height 
is often established only by meticulous surveying. The eminence 


The Mountain 

of Nanga Parbat is beyond question. Dwarfing all mountains 
around, she soars to her immense height in majestic isolation. 
The South Wall, with Kashmir at its feet, rises above the Rupal 
valley as one of the greatest precipices of the world, a sheer face 
of 15,000 to 16,000 feet. The eternal snows cannot cling to it 
as they cling to the north side, and the Bazhin glacier, fed by the 
ice avalanches breaking continuously from above, starts miles 
below the summit. 

To its east and west, too, the mountain is bounded by deep 
narrow gorges, the Astor and Bunar valleys, and it is only 
towards the north, to the sun-scorched valley of the Indus, that 
the massif slopes rather than plunges. 

The Indus reaches Nanga Parbat from Central Tibet after 
having drained all the mountain ranges north of the enormous 
watershed represented by the Himalaya, and the juxtaposition 
of this mighty river and the gigantic pile of Nanga Parbat 
produces what is considered to be the greatest relative difference 
of height in the world: from the floor of the Indus valley, 
3,000 feet above sea level, to the summit of Nanga Parbat at 
26,620 feet. 

All valleys of Nanga Parbat ultimately lead to the inhospit- 
able desert of the Indus gorge which in its desolation offers no 
outlet to the south. Hence the approach to the mountain presents 
its own problems. The western route across the Babusar Pass 
and the eastern approach across the Tragbal and Burzil Passes, 
both over 150 miles long, traverse heights equal to the Jungfrau- 
joch and are impassable for normal traffic for the greater part of 
the year. Most Nanga Parbat expeditions have had to lead their 
caravans of porters through blizzards and deep snow. The 
victorious expedition of 1953 had the good fortune to be able 
to make use of the military air route from Rawalpindi over the 
Babusar Pass to Gilgit, and thus save the time and effort formerly 
expended on the approach. 



The British Expedition 
of 1895 

THE MOUNTAINEERING history of Nanga Parbat goes back to the 
very earliest days of Himalayan climbing, to 1895 when an 
ascent to the summit was attempted by one of Britain's greatest 
climbers A. F. Mummery. 

Mummery liked to climb without professional guides and to 
ferret out new ascent routes on the well-known peaks of the 
Alps. That his name is not as widely known as that of less 
illustrious Victorian climbers is due to the fact that he was much 
more a man of deeds than of words. He was no writer, and his 
only book, My Climbs in the Alps and Caucasus, was the 
outcome of hurried scribblings on the mountain made for the 
entertainment of his friends. 

He was well into his forties when, in June, 1895, he set out 
for India to fulfil his life's ambition to climb one of the highest 
peaks of the world. In less than a month from his departure 
from England he was on his way through the legendary Vale of 
Kashmir to the South Wall of Nanga Parbat. He entered the 
narrow glacier-blocked Rupal valley and with his companions, 
Geoffrey Hastings and J. Norman Collie, gazed up from the foot 
of the immense rock wall with its hanging glaciers, ice-clad gullies 
and stupendous precipices rising a sheer 15,000 feet to the 
summit far above. 

Mummery had not chosen the route to the South Wall for 
any technical reason. The mountain was practically unknown. 
The method of approach was dictated by political expediency. 


The British Expedition of 1895 

To the west and north of the mountain lived the savage tribes 
of Chilas, against whom military operations were still being 
conducted. At that time, as to-day, the Gilgit Agency was of 
great strategic importance. Only four years previously, in 1891, 

The Nanga Parbat Massif 

the "Gilgit Road" had been constructed over the Burzil Pass to 
pacify the wild and notorious Hunzas (who were to become the 
best mountain porters locally available and were used in the 
expeditions of 1932 and 1953). Mummery, unlike the leaders of 
modern expeditions, had to live off the country, and he could 
not compete with the military who depleted the local resources 
around the Gilgit Road. The progress of the ascent had 


Nanga Parbat 

repeatedly to be halted while the climbers themselves went on 
foraging expeditions. It was therefore necessary to remain as 
close as possible to the civilized part of Kashmir to the south of 
the mountain. 

In spite of the awe-inspiring sight of the South Wall from 
the Rupal valley, the party was undismayed. They were too 
close to work out a route but they had a vague idea of climbing 
up to a pass to the west of the summit which they called Nanga 
Parbat Pass, and then traversing up the west ridge to the summit. 
This route seemed to lead first over a very steep buttress of rock 
and an enormous ice ridge which looked like "a very exaggerated 
copy of the Brenva route up Mont Blanc". 

The party agreed that they would have to "push" camps with 
provisions up to the 20,000 feet high pass for the final assault; 
they were understandably uncertain and even apprehensive 
about the last 6,000 feet on the west main ridge. 

They next embarked on a series of short climbs up the south 
side of the Rupal valley in the hope of getting a better view. 
They had at this stage of their expedition no porters as such, 
but were accompanied by a few sophisticated Kashmiri servants 
who were aghast when they found they were expected to climb 
interminable snow slopes and narrow ice gullies. When Mum- 
mery put them on the rope and to their growing alarm initiated 
them into the pleasures of rock-climbing they asserted that no 
respectable Kashmiri gentleman would ever attempt to climb in 
such unsuitable places. One can sympathize with them for some 
of the rock pitches of fifteen or twenty feet were almost 

At 16,000 feet sahibs and servants alike began to feel the 
effects of the altitude and, although Mummery lightly regarded 
this as little more than a passing inconvenience, it was agreed 
that no serious ascent should be attempted until the party was 
better acclimatized. They accordingly decided to wander round 
the mountain's central massif to the western flank. 

They now crossed the interminable screes of the Mazeno 
Pass, 18,000 feet high, at the western end of the Rupal valley. 
This kind of slow grind was extremely distasteful to Mummery. 
Collie was overcome by a severe attack of mountain sickness 


The British Expedition of 1895 

near the Pass and could hardly crawl to the top. After circum- 
venting the western promontories they entered the narrow, 
deeply incised Diamir valley and came face to face with the 
great ice-fall breaking down over the Diamir west face. From 
their camp at 12,450 feet astride the glacier, Mummery quickly 
picked out the route by which he hoped to gain the upper 
snowfield immediately below the summit. But what of the 
gigantic ice-fall itself? Mummery pointed to three dark rock 
ribs dividing the ice-fall like a centre parting and forming an 
arrow head direct to the summit. After gaining the upper snow- 
field, Mummery intended to traverse to the left towards the 
North Summit and the Bazhin Gap and from there he might 
have followed the route to the summit up the east ridge and 
shoulder which Buhl actually chose in 1953. 

The party had only a few days' food for this reconnaissance 
trip a lack of foresight characteristic of Mummery's rush 
tactics and were therefore obliged to retrace the route to their 
Base Camp in the Rupal valley. Typically, Mummery decided 
to by-pass the tedious boulder-strewn slopes of the Mazeno 
Pass and to strike across the South Wall itself to the Pass or the 
head of the Rupal valley. In view of the slenderness of his 
reserves this was an audacious plan. Carrying lanterns, they set 
out before midnight, making for a rib of rock which pointed 
to a gap in the wall to the south of the Diamir valley. This they 
reached at dawn, but now, for the first time, they experienced 
the vast scale of Himalayan climbing. Point after point within 
the rib had to be surmounted and the gap still remained high 
above them. Eventually the rib was found to lead to a peak 
which soared to the west of the Pass. Mummery now decided 
to strike out in a bold traverse across the avalanche-threatened 
snow slopes several thousands of feet high. Two ropes were tied 
together, the climbers spread themselves out as far apart as 
possible, and so made their intrepid crossing. At 2 p.m. they 
reached the 18,000 feet high gap which they named the Diamirai 
Pass. Mummery was delighted with the varied techniques which 
the ascent had made necessary, but a severe disappointment 
awaited him at this late hour. They were still on the wrong side 
of the range with a small glacier (the Lubar or Loiba) below 


Nanga Parbat 

them and the Mazeno Pass far on the other side. Their Base 
Camp, nearest source of replenishment, was about twenty 
miles beyond the Mazeno Pass. Their situation was grim indeed. 
There was nothing for it but to descend several thousand feet 
to the Lubar glacier. In the gathering darkness, twenty hours 
after their start, they had to crawl up and down again across 
the despised screes of the Mazeno Pass, a terrible night of 
stumbling, slipping and falling. Only the knowledge that they 
must go on at any price kept them moving. 

They reached their base in the afternoon of the following 
day. General Bruce, then a young major in the Indian Army, 
had obtained a month's leave and was there to join them. They 
celebrated the occasion by drinking their priceless store of 
Bass's Pale Ale to the last bottle. Bruce was to become one of the 
most distinguished figures in Himalayan climbing, and leader 
of a later Mount Everest Expedition. He had brought for 
Mummery two Gurkhas from the Indian Army, Ragobir and 
Goman Singh. Bruce had not at that time discovered the 
prowess of the Sherpa porters (for whose training he was chiefly 
responsible), but his preliminary choice of the Gurkhas was a 
most fortunate one. Ragobir and Goman Singh proved to be 
excellent porters and loyal servants. 

July was nearly over and the augmented party started off for 
unambitious practice climbs to break in the Gurkha porters. 
Then Mummery decided to return to the Diamir West Flank. 
Incorrigible, he again shied away from the laborious roundabout 
trek across the Mazeno Pass and once more set out to strike 
direct across the western part of the South Wall to the head of 
the Diamir valley. His party camped near the Mazeno Pass at a 
height of 13,000 feet and set off before dawn. By five o'clock 
in the afternoon they had climbed over 7,000 feet without a 
break. They ate their evening meal in a state of exhaustion and 
with the certain prospect of a bivouac in the open. Bruce, Collie 
and Ragobir decided to return to a "less exalted position", but 
Mummery and Hastings would not give in so early. Intrepidly 
they went on through the evening mists and reached a height 
of 21,000 feet quite near the summit of Mazeno Peak. They 
hoped to continue their ascent by the light of the full moon, 


The British Expedition of 1895 

but as after sundown the mist had not lifted they had to beat 
a laborious retreat. They rejoined the rest of the party as the 
new day was breaking. Characteristically, they had now run out 
of supplies again, and there followed another day of agony in 
search of shelter and food. Ragobir kept collapsing on the long 
crawl down to the Mazeno Pass and it came to light that he had 
also passed the whole of the previous day without eating. It 
was, indeed, Ragobir's vagueness about his own food that later 
caused Mummery to break off his last bid for the summit. At 
sunset they reached some shepherds' huts at Lubar where they 
refreshed themselves in a manner far removed from that of the 
civilized tinned fare of later expeditions. This is how Collie 
describes that evening which, he said, provided him with one 
of the keenest enjoyments of his life: 

"I shall never forget the sight that greeted my eyes when 
Mummery and I, the last of the party, walked into the small 
enclosure of stones where the goats and sheep were collected. 

"Bruce was seated on the small wall in his shirtsleeves, 
superintending the slaughter of one of the sheep. And, horrible 
to relate, in less than half an hour after we entered Lubar we 
were all ravenously devouring pieces of sheep's liver only half 
cooked on the ends of sticks. 

"The dirty, sour goats' milk, too, was delicious, and as far as 
I can recollect, each of us drank considerably over a gallon that 
evening, to wash down the fragments of toasted sheep and 
chapatis that we made from some flour that had providentially 
remained behind our caravan with a sick coolie. Very soon we 
got into a somewhat comatose condition, and there was some sort 
of arrangement made, that should any one wake in the night he 
should look after the fire. But next morning when I awoke the fire 
was out and I was covered with hoar frost. We had all fallen 
asleep almost in the positions in which we sat in front of the fire." 

They were none the worse for their experience. 

Arrived in the Diamir valley, Mummery at once set about 
preparing his famous assault. Bruce was now ill with mumps 
(for many months afterwards he was unable to wear a collar) 
and his leave from the army was over; provisions were once 
more running low and Hastings volunteered to go to Astor 


Nanga Parbat 

to bring up fresh supplies. Collie was having increasing doubts 
about the effects of high altitude above 21,000 feet. He records : 
"I quoted an article I had read somewhere about paralysis and 
derangement of nerve-centres in the spinal column being the 
fate of all who insist on energetic action when the barometer 
stands at "thirteen inches. It was no good, Mummery only 
laughed at me." But it is significant that while Mummery 
appeared confident and light-hearted to his companions, he 
confessed in a letter to his wife: "I begin to have some doubts 
about our ultimate success." 

Mummery intended to push up camps along the three central 
ribs of the Diamir Ice-fall; after gaining the upper snowfield a 
final camp was to be established at the very foot of the summit 
massif at about 22,000 feet. On 6th August, 1 895, he climbed with 
Ragobir to the second rib of the ridge and set up his first camp 
at 17,000-18,000 feet. It was here that Lobenhoffer and Chicken, 
members of the Reconnaissance Expedition of 1939, found a 
single log of wood, pathetic relic of the famous first attempt. 
With gigantic avalanches of ice plunging down to the left and 
right it had lain there undisturbed for almost half a century. 
Meanwhile Lor Khan, a huntsman from Chilas, had attached 
himself to the party and on 1 1th August climbed with Mummery, 
Collie, Ragobir and Goman Singh to a height of 19,000 feet. 
Of this ascent Collie wrote: 

"Lor Khan, who came behind me on the rope, seemed to be 
enjoying himself immensely; of course he had never been in 
such a position before, but these Chilas tribesmen are famous 
fellows. What Swiss peasant, whilst making his first trial of the 
big snow peaks and the ice, would have dared to follow in such 
a place, and that, too, with only skins soaked through by the 
melting snow wrapped round his feet ? Lor Khan never hesitated 
for a moment; when I turned and pointed downwards he only 
grinned, and looked as if he were in the habit of walking on ice 
slopes every day of his life. We were soon all in a line across this 
ice face, and whilst I was cutting one of Mummery's steps 
deeper to make it safer for our Chilas shikari, I noticed that the 
rope was hanging down in a great loop between Lor Khan and 
myself. At once I cried out to him not to move again till it was 


Willy Merkl 

North Summit 

Bazhin Gap 

Main Summit 
(below: Diamir ice fall) 

The Diamir face of Nanga Parbat 

Historical photograph by Hastings, Mummery's companion (by courtesy of the 

Alpine Club). The three ' ribs ' of the Mummery route are below the Main 

Summit. The left elevation on the summit crest is the ' Shoulder 

Profile of the Diamir face of Nanga Parbat, showing the extreme steepness of the 

Mummery route (below cloud). To the right of the centre is the summit structure, 

to the left of it the two north summits. The north-north-west ridge (in the centre) 

points towards the photographer 

The of to the right, South-East 

in V (1953) near in 

(% CM if flw 

The to IV Peak and East of 

HI (old Camp IV) in the 

The British Expedition of 1895 

absolutely tight between us, and always to keep it so for the 
future. In the East we found that people were accustomed to 
obey instantly without asking questions. What the sahib said 
was law, at least so long as the sahib was there himself to 
enforce obedience. Consequently as I moved onward the rope 
soon became taut, and fortunately remained in that condition. 
Shortly after this Mummery turned upwards and slightly to his 
right, cutting nearly straight up the face, owing to some bad 
snow which barred our way. Just as I began the ascent of this 
staircase I heard a startled exclamation below. Instinctively I 
struck the pick of my axe deep into the ice, and at the same 
moment the whole of the weight of the unfortunate Lor Khan 
came on Ragobir and on me with the full force of a drop of 
some five to six feet. He had slipped out of one of the steps, 
and hung with his face to the glistening ice, whilst under him the 
thin coating of snow peeled off the face of the slope in great and 
ever-widening masses, gathering in volume as it plunged head- 
long down the mountain-side, finally to disappear over the cliffs 
thousands of feet below. For the time being I was fascinated by 
the descending avalanche, my whole mind being occupied with 
but this one thought, that if Lor Khan began to struggle and 
jerk at the rope I should without a doubt be pulled out of my 
steps. My fears proved groundless. Although Lor Khan had 
lost his footing he never lost either his head or his axe, and was 
just able to reach with his hand one of the steps out of which he 
had fallen. After Mummery had made himself quite firm above 
me I found myself, with the help of Ragobir, who was last on 
the rope, just able to haul up our Chilas shikari to a step which 
he had manfully cut for himself." 

And of the descent to Base Camp : 

"Ragobir was sent to the front. He led us down the most 
precipitous places with tremendous rapidity and immense 
enjoyment. It was all 'good' according to him, and his cheery 
face down below made me feel that there could be no difficulty, 
till I found myself hanging down a slab of rock with but the 
barest of handholds, or came to a bulging mass of ice overhang- 
ing a steep gully, which insisted on protruding into the middle 
of my stomach, with direful result to my state of equilibrium. 


Nanga Parbat 

"At one place where the ridge was a narrow knife edge, with 
precipices on both sides, we had a splendid piece of climbing. 
A sharp descent of about a hundred feet occurred on the arete 
which seemed at first sight impossible. Ragobir tried first on the 
right hand, but, owing to the smoothness of the rock slabs and 
the absence of all handholds, was unable to get down further 
than twenty feet or so. Whilst I was dangling the Gurkha on the 
end of the rope, Mummery discovered what he considered to 
be a possible solution of the difficulty. Ragobir was to climb 
about twenty-five feet down a small open chimney on the 
perpendicular south face of the ridge; he would then be on the 
top of a narrow flake of rock which was laid against the 
mountain-side in the same manner as those on the traverse of 
the Aiguille de Grepon. We could easily hold him from above 
whilst he edged sideways along this narrow way. After a short 
time he called out that it was all right, and I let down Lor 
Khan next. When I myself got on to the traverse I was very 
much impressed, not that it was very difficult, thanks to the 
splendid handholds, but the face was so perpendicular that 
without them one could hardly have stood on the narrow top 
of the slab without falling outwards. A loose stone when thrown 
out about twenty feet pitched on some snow at least five hundred 
feet below." 

In spite of continuing bad weather Mummery decided to 
push another camp up the third rib prior to his final assault 
on the summit. This involved sleeping in the already existing 
intermediate camp on top of the second rib. Mummery, Ragobir 
and Lor Khan spent the night here and the next day in dense 
mist climbed another thousand feet up the third rib where they 
left a rucksack with food. Mummery intended to strike out 
later from this point carrying a light silk tent of his own 
invention for his final bid for the summit. But the camp on the 
third rib had first to be consolidated and Mummery set out to 
return to Base Camp before sunset. He arrived late at night and 
wet through and was greeted by the anxiously waiting Collie. 
Mummery was in excellent spirits and gave a glowing account 
of his experiences. Avalanches which would have swept away 
whole towns had fallen right and left. The crevasses were 


The British Expedition of 1895 

enormous, and the rock-climbing was at such an angle that no 
time would be lost in making height towards the upper snow- 
field below the summit itself. If only the weather would clear 
he was sure he could get at least to that upper glacier. 

Of the night that followed Collie wrote: "About midnight, 
gusts of cold wind began to moan amongst the stunted pines 
that surrounded our tents; then, gathering in force, this demon 
of the mountains howled round our tents, and snow came down 
in driven sheets. The anger of the spirits that inhabited the 
mountains had been roused, and we were being informed of 
what awaited us, should we persist in our impious endeavours 
to penetrate into the sanctuaries above. 

"Many times in the pitch darkness of the night I thought the 
small 'Mummery tent' I was in would be simply torn in pieces, 
but towards daylight the hurricane gradually died away, and 
by nine o'clock the sun came out. The scene, when I emerged 
from the tent, I shall never forget. Bright sunshine and dazzling 
white snow but where were all the groves of rhododendron 
bushes, from four to five feet high, that yesterday had surrounded 
our camp? Loaded with the snow, they had been beaten flat, 
and lay there plastered and stuck tight to the ground, by the 
ice and snow of the blizzard of the night before." 

Mummery was now anxious to make his final assault on the 
summit without delay. He had some scruples about setting off 
without waiting for Hastings to return from his foraging 
expedition but after long deliberation he and Collie decided 
that the opportunity should not be allowed to pass. Collie, 
his digestion upset by the coarse food of the past weeks, 
accompanied Mummery and Ragobir only as far as the camp 
at the head of the glacier where he spent the night, returning 
then to Base Camp. On the following day Hastings arrived back 
in Base Camp with large quantities of provisions. 

Mummery and Ragobir spent the second night in the first 
camp on top of the second rib and, starting before dawn as was 
Mummery's habit, pushed up on the final rib towards the upper 
snowfield. The climbing, Mummery admitted later, was exces- 
sively difficult, but the higher he climbed the easier it appeared. 
At last at a height of over 20,000 feet he could see over the 


Nanga Parbat 

Nanga Parbat Pass to the right of the summit. Then Ragobir 
fell suddenly ill. It turned out that he had again failed to eat 
properly and was weakened by hunger. It was impossible to 
spend another night at that altitude and Mummery, himself in 
excellent form, had to break off his last decisive assault. His 
disappointment was great as at this point all technical difficulties 
had been overcome. He felt convinced that if he could have 
spent another night on the upper snowfield he would have 
reached the summit on the following day. So ended the assault 
on the summit by what has since become known as the 
Mummery Route. 

To-day, in the light of fuller experience of Himalayan 
climbing, it is not unusual to hear Mummery's plan dismissed 
as utterly impracticable. It is known now that in the assault 
of a 26,000 feet peak the really exacting work begins only after 
a height of 20,000 feet has been reached, and that for the last 
6,000 feet at least three and probably four or five further camps 
must be established with an efficient transport organization 
behind them. 

Buhl's lone dash for the summit in 1953 is more akin to 
Mummery's attempt than to any of the highly organized 
expeditions which were launched during the sixty years between. 
Buhl too set out with a minimum of food and equipment and 
shed even his rucksack when he was still far away from the 
summit. His starting point was, perhaps, a little higher than 
Mummery's projected last camp, but in distance it was many 
times further away. He was thus obliged to spend longer in the 
critical zone above 21,000 feet than Mummery would have 
been. Established Himalayan practice suggested that at least 
one or two further camps were necessary, even indispensable. 
And yet Buhl succeeded. Should one, therefore, dismiss Mum- 
mery's single-handed bid as utterly impracticable? As his 
achievement stands it still represents in the words of General 
Bruce "the most exacting mountaineering that has ever been 
done in the Himalayas". 

After abandoning his assault from the Diamir West Flank, 
Mummery decided to tackle the mountain from the last remain- 
ing flank yet to be explored, the North-East Flank falling off to 


The British Expedition of 1895 

the Rakhiot valley, the route, indeed, by which all subsequent 
expeditions fought their way up the mountain. Mummery was 
as usual reluctant to walk round the mountain across uninterest- 
ing low passes and once again set off with his two Gurkhas to 
strike direct across one of the Diama Gaps to the Rakhiot 
valley behind. Collie and Hastings took the rest of the party 
round three low passes. 

When Collie reached the top of the last pass above the 
Rakhiot valley he could see the profile of the great North-East 
Flank down which Mummery and his two Gurkhas would 
have had to come had they reached the Diama Gaps. It looked 
quite hopeless and a close examination of the most feasible 
looking ridge through a powerful telescope failed to reveal 
any evidence that Mummery and his companions had passed 
that way. He and Hastings therefore conjectured that Mummery 
must have turned back; Mummery had, in fact, said he would do 
just this if the Pass should prove too dangerous, and he had 
left caches at the upper camp to tide him over a possible return 
journey until he caught up with the others. Accordingly his 
friends sent two porters back with extra food to meet him. After 
three days they returned with the report that they had seen no 
trace of Mummery and his two Gurkhas. 

Had he missed the way in the mist of the past few days or 
had he perhaps suffered a minor injury which had kept him 
back in the Diamir valley? Hastings returned immediately to 
the Diamir valley. Collie had to go on as his leave was nearly 
over, but he agreed to wait at Astor for further news. On 
5th September he received a telegram from Hastings to the 
effect that still no trace of Mummery had been found. The camp 
was untouched and even the caches higher up were exactly as 
they were when Mummery had set out on the morning of 24th 
August. There was only one possible explanation Mummery 
and his Gurkhas had perished higher up on the Diama glacier, 
caught, no doubt, in one of the many ice avalanches which 
thunder down the Diamir face. Collie wrote: "It was a dreadful 
ending to our expedition. The mountains amongst which we 
had spent so many pleasant days together no longer were the 
same. The sunshine and the beauty were gone; savage, cruel 


Nanga Parbat 

and inhospitable the black pinnacles of the ridges and the 
overhanging glaciers of cold ice filled my mind with only one 

Though all hope was now at an end, Collie went back and 
rejoined Hastings. His state of mind as he returned to the 
Diamir valley is reflected in his impressions of the country 
through which he passed: "The dominant sensation in this 
strange land is that of fear and abhorrence; and what makes it 
all the more appalling is that this thing before one is there in 
all its nakedness; it has no reserve, there is nothing hidden. Its 
rugged insolence, its brutal savagery, and its utter disregard of 
all the puny efforts of man, crushes out of the mind any idea 
that this spot belongs to an ordinary world. 

"Whether in the day or the night it is the same. During the 
stifling hours of noon the (Indus) valley sleeps in the scorching 
sunlight, but there, always there, is that monstrous flood below, 
slowly, ceaselessly moving. Occasionally the waters will send 
up an angry and deep-tongued murmur, when some huge eddy, 
rising to the surface, breaks, and belches out the waters that 
have come from the lowest depths. 

"At night in the stillness and the heat, as one lies unable to 
sleep, imagination runs riot; from out the inky shadows that 
seam the hill-sides in the pale moonlight, dragons and great 
creeping monsters seemingly appear crawling slowly down to 
drink at the ebon flood beneath. And imagination easily in 
restless dreams becomes reality, thus adding tenfold to the 
already accumulated horrors." 

When the two friends arrived at the deserted camp in the 
Diamir valley, winter had already set in and a search in the 
higher glacier regions had become impossible. In the deep 
powdery snow the friends waded up as far as they could with 
avalanches coming down in continuous succession. Somewhere 
in these colossal wastes of snow and ice Mummery and his 
companions lay buried. "The avalanches were thundering 
down the face of Nanga Parbat, filling the air with their dust; 
and if nothing else had made it impossible to penetrate into the 
fastnesses of this cold, cheerless, and snow-covered mountain- 
land, they at least spoke with no uncertain voice, and bade us 


The British Expedition of 1895 

be gone. Slowly we descended, and for the last time looked on 
the great mountain and the white snows where in some unknown 
spot our friends lay buried." Thus Collie's sad farewell to Nanga 

The mystery surrounding Mummery's disappearance aroused 
as much speculation at the time as did the passing of Mallory 
and Irvine on Mount Everest in 1924. 

The story of Mummery's probings of the more direct routes 
up the immense South Wall and the ice-fall of the Diamir West 
Flank explains why subsequent expeditions approached the 
mountain by its back door, toiling up the many tiers of the wild 
avalanche-swept Rakhiot glacier to gain a foothold on the 
East Arete still only 22,000 feet high and miles away from the 
summit. But for a long time no expedition went out to Nanga 
Parbat. General Bruce publicly expressed his own doubt 
whether the peak would ever be climbed. 


Camp VI (1934) 

i Camp VII (1 934) 
{ (Weltenbach 

Wieland died 


' Saddle 

Silver Crag 

Moor's Head 
!( Willy 
iMerkl, Gay- 
I Lay died) 

Alternative Routes across the Rakhiot Ice-Wall or Mulde of the 1932 and 1934 Expeditions 

1934 Route 

1932 Route 

North Summit 


The German-American 
Expedition of 1932 

THIRTY-FIVE YEARS passed before Mummery's plan was again 
examined and in 1930 Dr. Willo Welzenbach gave thought to 
the possibility of a German ascent of Nanga Parbat. Illness and 
professional duties prevented him from carrying his plan to 
fruition and when his friend Willy Merkl, to whom Mummery 
was a heroic figure, took over the idea, insuperable obstacles 
seemed still to bar the way. But Merkl refused to be beaten by 
them and by dint of sheer determination and the ready help of 
supporters, the German- American expedition of 1932 took 
shape with Willy Merkl as leader. It was MerkPs first time in the 

His companions on the first expedition he was to lead were 
young Peter Aschenbrenner, an Austrian mountain guide from 
Kufstein in the Tyrol (who reappeared as a veteran in the 
expedition of 1953), Fritz Bechtold, Merkl's intimate friend, 
Dr. Hugo Hamberger, physician to the expedition, Herbert 
Kunigk, a handsome giant of twenty-four and the "baby" of 
the party, Felix Simon, a veteran mountaineer of over forty, 
and Fritz Wiessner who later became a naturalized American 
and was to lead the American Karakoram Expedition in 1939. 
The American element was represented by young Rand Herron 
of New York and Elizabeth Knowlton, who accompanied the 
expedition as press reporter. Herron's climbing record was 
impressive. He had started on rock, climbing guideless, with 
such fabulous feats as leading the Vajolet Towers in the Dolo- 


The German-American Expedition of 1932 

mites, twice in one day, in his second climbing season. He had 
specialized in the more difficult and out-of-the-way rock climbs, 
wandering over the mountain ranges of Europe from Olympus 
to the Pyrenees, and making many first ascents, often alone. He 
had also had good experience in snow and ice, on many of the 
famous routes in the Mont Blanc massif, and in expeditions to 
Morocco, the High Atlas, Lapland in winter, and the Caucasus, 
where with three friends, he was first to conquer the famous and 
frequently attempted peak, Guilchi (14,680 feet). Among his 
German and Austrian companions, mostly short, square, stolid 
men, he stood out, long-legged, black-headed and alight with 
eagerness. Merkl said of him: "He was the ideal man for a great 
expedition; always of even-tempered serenity, kindly and for- 
bearing, sharing everything with everyone. Himself lovable, 
he brought out the best in others. His unfailing optimism and 
great driving force sprang not so much from a desire for 
sporting accomplishment as from a deep love of the mountains." 
It was Herron's personality, and not so much American financial 
support, which gave the expedition its international title. The 
project was financed mainly by German and Austrian Alpine 
Clubs, and by its own members, and its resources were relatively 
meagre. This may have been the reason why the expedition 
failed to hire seasoned Sherpa porters from Darjeeling, and 
made do with locally hired Hunza tribesmen. 

In the middle of May the party arrived in Srinagar, the capital 
of Kashmir, where they had to obtain permission to enter the 
Chilas district to the north of the mountain. After a period of 
waiting they were granted permission to approach Nanga 
Parbat but from the south side, i.e., by the immense South Wall 
which Mummery had probed in vain. As a way out of this 
impasse, Herron hit on the idea of suggesting to the government 
that the expedition should, while in the Chilas region, keep 
high on the shoulders of the Nanga Parbat massif and not pass 
through any villages. This meant that they had to cross three 
wild trackless ridges in order to descend into the Rakhiot valley. 

From Srinagar they had to cover a distance of close on two 
hundred miles, mainly along the "Gilgit Road" which took 
them over the still snow-covered Tragbal and Burzil Passes. 


Nanga Parbat 

The porters had to carry their loads over the Burzil Pass by 
night as, at that early season, daytime snow conditions would 
have made their task impossible. For the rest, 1 10 ponies carried 
the expedition's luggage to Astor to the east of Nanga Parbat. 
There, in accordance with a local custom which was rigidly 
enforced, the coolies of Srinagar insisted on being discharged. 
Lieutenant Frier of the Gilgit Scouts now joined the party as 
its transport officer and organized a new army of 150 load- 
carriers, and the Mir of Hunza, the autocratic ruler of the sturdy 
and independent mountain tribe, sent volunteers to undertake 
transport to the higher camps. Hopes were entertained that 
the Hunzas would develop into fine porters like the Sherpas, 
but neither on the 1932 expedition nor on the victorious 
expedition of 1953, which had to fall back on the expedient 
of training Hunzas for high altitude work, were they able to 
accomplish all that the German climbers expected of them. Of 
the hordes of Kashmiri porters only one man remained, and he 
had to defy intimidations and threats from his fellows to do so. 
His name was Ramona and he was to become famous as the 
"Nanga Parbat Cook" on this and later expeditions. Those 
who know from experience the effect that food has on morale, 
particularly in the high camps, will appreciate the importance 
of the contribution he was able to make. 

Aschenbrenner and Bechtold set out as scouts to find a 
route across the three mountain ridges which lay before the 
Rakhiot valley, but they failed to find a shorter route up the 
first two valleys and there was no alternative but to lead the 
endless columns of porters up and down the three ridges. When 
at length the Rakhiot valley was reached, the loads were 
dumped near a beautiful clearing which had Nanga Parbat's 
stupendous north-east wall as its magnificent background. This 
"Fairy Meadow" as Merkl called it was to become famous 
throughout the mountaineering world and all subsequent 
expeditions assembled near this beauty spot in their interim or 
provisional Base Camps. 

When the loads were checked it came to light that nearly all 
the bags containing the porters' equipment for the high camps 
had been stolen. First illusions about the local porters had 


The German-American Expedition of 1932 

already been dispelled. At the outset they had appeared cheerful 
and willing, and Merkl considered himself fortunate in having 
such material. Then they had become moody and unreliable, 
refusing to carry heavy loads and liable to complain of minor 
ailments. Now a grave suspicion of wholesale theft fell upon 
them. The climbers collected together what odd items of equip- 
ment they could and the result produced just about enough to 
set up nine porters. This was a set-back of the first magnitude. 

On 24th June, six weeks after arrival in Srinagar, the interim 
Base Camp was consolidated. Two routes to the summit were 
considered. The first possibility was to force the steep ice-clad 
North-East Flank and to climb along its north-north-west ridge 
towards the North Summit and the main summit beyond. This 
would have meant climbing a sheer wall up to the Diama Gaps 
in the reverse direction to which Mummery had attempted to 
cross over to the Rakhiot valley on his last trip. It was eventually 
decided that the wall was too formidable a proposition and in 
any case could not be climbed by porters. 

The second possibility was that the Rakhiot glacier, with its 
many tiers of steep ice-falls and deeply crevassed terraces, 
could serve as a ramp to gain the main east ridge joining the 
Chongra Peaks at the left and the Rakhiot Peak at the head of 
the valley with the vast Silver Plateau to the right, which was 
part of the main massif. 

The expedition decided to embark on this latter plan. They 
had first seen the smoothly rising Firn plateau from far away 
while still approaching through the Rakhiot valley. How the 
route continued beyond the plateau to the summit proper they 
could only guess. The immediate obstacle to be overcome in em- 
barking on the many tiers of the Rakhiot glacier was the Great 
Ice-fall, 3,000 feet high, which barred the way to the first terrace. 

At this point, and before anything could be attempted, the 
porters went on strike. This was the first of many such strikes 
which were to bedevil the sorely-tried expedition, in spite of all 
Lieutenant Frier's efforts to maintain discipline. It was at first 
mainly a question of food as the customary chapati cakes had 
run out and had to be replaced for the time being by sahib 
rations of rice. Excited speeches were made with much oratory 


Nanga Parbat 

and gesticulation none of which was understood by the climbers, 
but so much became clear they wanted more of everything. 
The flour for making the chapatis was on the way and in the end 
the strike petered out. The next action of the porters was to 
complain about having to take turns with the same clothes. 
Since this was made necessary only because of the thefts, the 
complaint was a fine piece of brazen effrontery. However, the 
porters announced briefly that they were about to depart for 
good and the helpless climbers watched one man after the other 
pick up his things and move off down the valley. Frier tried to 
comfort his comrades with the hope that their tribal chiefs 
would send them back and with the certain knowledge that they 
had not got enough food to see them home. As it happened the 
porters showed up again the next day and kept the peace at least 
for a week. 

On 24th June Herron and Kunigk started out to reconnoitre 
the route to the site for a permanent Base Camp as near as 
possible to the foot of the wildly torn Great Ice-fall dropping 
from the first tier of the glacier. Their task was to keep the track 
safely outside the reach of the many avalanches which thundered 
constantly down the North-East Flank. By keeping left near 
the Great Moraine of the Rakhiot glacier they made their way 
over glacial torrents and screes. At last from the top of the 
moraine they saw at its foot a charming little meadow with a 
brook running through it and protected on both sides by 
moraine walls from the hazards of the wild ice world around it, 
the ideal site for the permanent Base Camp. They pitched their 
tent, sent back the porters with the message that the site had 
been found and that the interim Base Camp should be moved up 
as soon as possible. 

At about six the next morning Herron and Kunigk went on. 
After following the rocks for a while they set foot on a Himalayan 
glacier for the first time. As the sun rose gigantic Himalayan 
avalanches began to hurtle down the shutes from the North- 
East Flank uncomfortably close. At the end of the rocks they 
had reached a height of roughly 13,000 feet; it was only 1 o'clock. 
Looking up the gigantic ice-fall now soaring immediately 
before them they still hoped to force a way through on the same 


The German-American Expedition of 1932 

day. As they went on they realized how easily the European 
climber underestimates distances in the large-scale mountain 
world of the Himalaya. The merciless sun softened the snow and 
they sank deeper and deeper with every step. It also dried the 
thin air and made it difficult for them to breathe. Their move- 
ments became wearier and wearier. As they could not return 
the same day, they pitched their tent on a fairly flat platform 
immediately before the steep part of the ice-fall but far enough 
from the North-East Flank so they thought to be safe from 
its avalanches. This site was to be Camp I. They had not expected 
to bivouac and had only dry biscuits with them and milk 
powder which they ate straight from the tin in large quantities, 
and which, naturally, upset their stomachs. As long as the sun 
shone they were able to melt snow by means of the heat inside 
the tent combined with the warmth of their bodies. After sun- 
down it was impossible to get water in this primitive fashion. 
Still feeling fairly sick, they got started very early next morning 
so as to enter the ice-fall while the snow was still hard. They 
could give little thought to the wild beauty around them, 
desperate as they were to find some way up, never knowing 
whether the next turn round a serac or crevasse would not bring 
them up against some impossible obstacle. When they had nearly 
gained their objective, they found themselves cut off by an 
enormous crevasse spanned only by a narrow snow bridge to a 
sheer overhanging ice- wall opposite. Could a route be laid 
there which would be possible for convoys of porters ? There 
was absolutely no alternative to the left. Herron hoisted himself 
on to Kunigk's shoulders and forced an ice chimney to search 
further right. But no continuation was found. So the snow bridge 
just had to do. The two men walked gingerly across and climbed 
the ice-wall beyond. In spite of all misgivings this snow bridge 
held out for the better part of the summer. Near exhaustion the 
half-sick men went only far enough to make sure that the first 
tier of the glacier could indeed be reached from there onwards. 
Then, summoning their last reserves of strength, they turned 
back. At the foot of the ice-fall they ran into a party led by 
Wiessner who had set out in their wake with the purpose of 
establishing Camp I near the site chosen by Herron and Kunigk. 


Nanga Parbat 

Wiessner commented afterwards that he had never seen men 
more completely exhausted. They dropped into their sleeping- 
bags and lay motionless, allowing the porters to undress and 
massage them. Wiessner and Simon, following Herron and 
Kunigk's trail, quickly established Camp I at the foot of the 
Great Ice-fall and Camp II at its top. 

On 29th June Wiessner, this time in Aschenbrenner's com- 
pany, took another convoy from Base Camp to Camp II. 
Passing the night in Camp I, they were awakened by a terrifying 
roar which sounded to them in their dazed state like an express 
train coming towards them with uncanny rapidity. With 
deafening thunder it seemed to rush right on top of them. The 
tent poles snapped like matchwood and the tent collapsed. 
Prostrate the men waited. The roar subsided and was gradually 
replaced by a deathly silence. As the climbers crawled from 
underneath the flattened tent, they felt themselves grasped by 
trembling hands and were assailed by anxious voices. The 
porters were beside themselves with fear. Their tent too had 
collapsed. Chaos reigned in the total darkness. 

As day broke it appeared that an avalanche of enormous 
dimensions had come down the North-East Flank; the air 
pressure and snow dust driven by the edge of this avalanche had 
been sufficient to break the tent poles. The place where Herron 
and Kunigk had bivouacked a few days before lay directly in 
its course. The site chosen by Wiessner and Aschenbrenner had 
been sheltered somewhat by the ice- wall above; otherwise their 
tent would have been blown off its shelf. The frightened porters 
did not settle down again during the night but passed it with 
prayers to the goddess of Nanga Parbat. The fate of the two 
Gurkha porters who had perished with Mummery forty years 
before was still well remembered. When morning came they 
decided to leave the expedition for good. For two full days 
Frier tried to persuade them to remain. As nothing else 
promised success Frier kept offering them higher and higher 
wages until the amount had risen to five times the sum originally 
agreed on. Fortunately this was the last strike on the moun- 
tain, though porter troubles beset the expedition to its very 


in Gilglt 


'ftfldMton officer (1953V 

The from the left, Erfl, 


The of the at the in 

A to the 

on tie f, the 

til the 

- a ^' CS Ul " d ; llunlod hom thc norlh -* as ' nk of 
iiol Glacier endangering the roule between Camps I 
and II. The climbers called them the ' Morning Express ' 

The German-American Expedition of 1932 

The first days of July brought a long stretch of fair weather 
and camps were pushed up the mountain according to a strict 
schedule. On 3rd July Aschenbrenner consolidated Camp II 
on top of the Great Ice-fall by digging an ice cave. Widening 
the cavity inside he inadvertently broke a "window" into an 
adjoining crevasse which had been invisible under a cover of 
snow. While the expedition was moving up the glacier they 
preferred ice caves to tents as giving better protection against 
the avalanches from which no part of the lower route was 
entirely safe. It was later decided that the extra protection they 
gave did not justify the very great physical exertion involved in 
digging them. 

On 4th July, Herron and Kunigk, the tireless trail-makers, 
laid a track to Camp III which, at a height of about 19,250 feet, 
was already on the second tier of the glacier. They had to make a 
detour down towards the left as the ice-fall above Camp II 
ended in a literally vertical wall of ice with overhanging snow 
fields threatening from above. Again the two proved their 
unfailing flair. Though too close to the ice-wall and unable to 
see ahead they cut through to the left under overhanging 
glaciers, the green tongues of which protruded above them. 
This way was obviously menaced by ice avalanches, but there 
was no alternative. As it happened their track was obliterated 
before the next party came along and buried beneath the debris 
of ice breaking away from the glaciers hanging above. Turning 
at last to the right they forced the ice-fall leading up to the second 
tier and, pitching their tent, laid the foundation for Camp III. 
Once more their labyrinthine route through the seracs and 
crevasses proved to be the best and was used throughout the 

Camp III was no great distance from Camp II. Herron and 
Kunigk had spent much time in reconnoitring and in stamping 
a trail through the deep snow. Experience proved that with light 
loads porters could in a single day reach the next higher camp, 
Camp IV, on the third tier, and in order to alleviate a shortage 
of porters, the expedition of 1953 cut out Camp III altogether. 

On 8th July Merkl and his friend Bechtold pushed beyond 
Camp III and laid a trail to Camp IV on the third and highest 


Nanga Parbat 

tier which extends above 20,000 feet close to the main ridge 
which swings from the Chongra Peaks across the Rakhiot Peak 
to the East Arete. Merkl did not bother to dig a cave, but pitched 
his tent which gave him greater comfort with less exertion. 
Camp IV would offer opportunity for acclimatization to the 
higher altitudes and could serve as a resting place during bad 
weather. From this camp the most important for the final 
assault on the summit it was possible to view the entire ascent 
route from the valley up the three tiers of the glacier and, 
looking upwards towards Rakhiot Peak, to survey the route to 
the East Arete and beyond, right up to the Silver Plateau. The 
main ridge above Camp IV swung backward to the South 
Chongra Peak (21,150 feet) a first ascent of which was made as 
a practice climb. The further route to the main summit was to 
follow the ridge in an opposite direction to the foot of Rakhiot 
Peak which obstructed the access to the East Arete and 
ultimately to the summit beyond. The desperate fight for the 
East Arete was to occupy the expedition in the coming weeks. 

There were two alternatives for forcing the obstacle repre- 
sented by Rakhiot Peak. One was to tackle it direct, climb its 
steep north-eastern ice-wall and traverse across the Rakhiot 
North Spur, Rakhiot West Flank, to the East Arete behind. 
The other was to cut through across the glacier underneath the 
Rakhiot North Spur and work one's way up to the Arete above, 
which meant passing a badly broken-up glacier area around 
the Spur to reach a vast avalanche-swept hollow, which the 
Americans called the "amphitheatre" and the Germans, the 
Mulde. Aschenbrenner and Kunigk had misgivings about the 
route through the Mulde. First there was the danger in the broken 
glacier area from tumbling stracs and brittle ice, and the vast 
bay of the Mulde with its steep rise to the East Arete seemed 
made for the quick release of avalanches constantly falling 
many thousands of feet to the lower terraces of the Rakhiot 
glacier. While the others saw no hope in the direct route across 
Rakhiot Peak, Aschenbrenner and Kunigk decided to explore 
it as an alternative route. 

They set out on 16th July with all the paraphernalia of a 
summit assault, and soon stood at the foot of the steep ice-wall 


The German- American Expedition of 1932 

forming the north-cast face of Rakhiot Peak. An enormous 
Bergschnmd yawned in between. They decided to traverse to 
the right towards the rocks below the North Spur. At last they 
found a snow bridge which brought them against the overhang- 
ing lip on the other side; they hacked a window through the 
lip and hoisted themselves through. After their weeks of trailing 
through ice and snow they now found themselves once more on 
rock. However, the rock was glazed with ice and proved to be 
brittle and it took them three hours to traverse to the ridge of 
the Spur only three rope-lengths away. They agreed that this 
stretch offered no practical route for the porters. After a rest 
they moved up along the Spur until they stood above the great 
East Arete to the summit massif opposite, the object of their 
hope and despair, to which somehow a route had to be found. 

Moving further up the North Spur they caught sight of the 
stupendous South Wall which Mummery had probed in vain, 
plunging from the small far-off snow pyramid of the main 
summit. Wistfully they gazed along the white crest of the East 
Arete up to the Silver Saddle, which gave on to the Silver 
Plateau, with the Fore-Summit, Bazhin Gap and the main 
summit in the background. They had completed their task of 
reconnaissance but could not resist climbing the last section of 
the rock spur to the very summit of Rakhiot Peak, 23,175 feet 
high, a first ascent of some significance. Its snow summit is 
adorned by a sharp rock needle to which Aschenbrenner 
promptly nailed the Tyrolese flag. Kunigk manoeuvred himself 
carefully to the cornice overhanging the South Wall and looked 
down to the floor of the Rupal valley, here some 18,000 feet 
below, with its moraines and grass and bushes shimmering 
darkly through the blue haze. On their return they glissaded 
direct down the steep north-east ice-wall which they had 
shirked on the way up and were at its foot within two and a half 
hours. They concluded that while the bulging steepness of the 
ice-wall would not necessarily preclude its use by porters, the 
continuation of the route further on to the North Spur and 
across the Rakhiot West Flank to the East Arete would not be 

Merkl therefore decided on the second alternative, scarcely 


Nanga Parbat 

more desirable, the route through the Mulde. The assault was 
to begin on 18th July and all the climbers assembled in Camp 
IV. But precious time had been lost, and now, at this crucial 
stage, heavy snow falls set in. Was the monsoon about to break ? 
For four weeks the fair weather had held and no decisive 
assault had been made. To make things worse, Kunigk fell ill. 
Acute appendicitis was diagnosed and Dr. Hamberger had to 
descend with him and rush him to Gilgit for an immediate 
operation. On 23rd July the weather cleared, but now all the 
porters unanimously reported ill. Aschenbrenner, Herron, 
Merkl and Bechtold made their way along the main ridge up to 
the foot of Rakhiot Peak, sinking knee-deep into the new snow 
with every step and carrying all the loads themselves. They 
established Camp V at just on 22,000 feet. Merkl and Bechtold 
felt too ill to go on, but Herron and Aschenbrenner set off the 
next day well before dawn to test the torn-up glacier area below 
the Rakhiot North Spur. Within this tortured maze they found 
conditions difficult beyond their worst fears. They turned back 
to Camp V with nothing to show for their efforts. Aschenbrenner 
had severe frost-bites on one foot which put him completely 
out of action. With the other young men of the team, Kunigk 
and Herron, he had formed the intrepid spearhead. It fell now 
to the more seasoned climbers to bear the brunt of the difficult 
days to come. None of the porters was available. Herron, 
Simon and Wiessner had to ferry loads to Camp V, while on 
25th July Merkl and his friend Bechtold tried once again to 
penetrate at least to the Mulde. Just as they were about to 
enter the torn-up glacier area below the Rakhiot North Spur 
an enormous strac broke loose from above and crashed down, 
gathering in its train a huge avalanche which thundered down 
the walls of the Mulde. Undaunted the two men hacked their 
way to a flatter part of the Mulde above the ice-fall and pitched 
their tent under the dubious protection of the Bergschrund as 
some sort of moat between them and the avalanches from the 
Rakhiot West Flank. With this, Camp VI was set up at last. - 
They were now separated from the East Arete by another 
700 feet of loose feathery snow and Bechtold, Herron and 
Simon set off from the new camp to burrow their way upwards. 


The German-American Expedition of 1932 

It was not a matter of stamping a trail in virgin snow, but of 
"clawing and pawing, putting in the ice-axe and almost swim- 
ming, without meeting any resistance", as Herron told Elizabeth 
Knowlton afterwards. They floundered helplessly, hardly able 
to keep above the surface of the collapsing walls of snow, 
every violent movement threatening to set off the amorphous 
masses in a single huge avalanche which could envelop them 
and carry them thousands of feet into the abyss below. They had 
to give up. In the meantime Wiessner had brought up two Hunza 
porters whom he had persuaded to assist in the assault, but who 
proved to be of little use. 

On 29th July, Merkl, Bechtold and Wiessner fought their way 
right through to the snow arete. Wiessner had a good flair 
for snow conditions and had suspected that a few hundred feet 
further up the snow might be firmer. But first they had had to 
get through the bottomless swamp of snow below. Using their 
elbows and knees in a sort of swimming motion the three men 
squirmed their way up. This is how Merkl described the first 
ascent to the East Arete: 

"On 29th July the three of us (Merkl, Wiessner and Bechtold) 
tried to push on over the upper part of the Mulde, this time 
without rucksacks and armed only with one snow-shovel. We 
were up to our waists in the soft loose snow and it was extremely 
difficult to make any headway whatsoever. The thin air began 
to tell on us. Every foot of height gained cost us tremendous 
effort. One step, five deep breaths, now the other foot slowly, 
laboriously, desperately we forged ahead. Then, the rope was 
paid out once more and there we were, on the summit-ridge ! 

'The joy of this moment beggars description. Our hopes and 
dreams of so long had become reality! How we had schemed 
and striven for just this moment. Beside ourselves with sheer 
happiness we stood erect and viewed for the first time the main 
summit of Nanga Parbat. The ridge itself was bathed in light 
and the summit face dropped a clear 15,000 feet down to the 
Rupal valley. The whole incomparable scene was on a scale 
such as we could never before have imagined. 

"We descended again to Camp VI in readiness to bring up 
the necessary equipment to the ridge on the following day. 


Nanga Parbat 

Meanwhile one of the porters had succumbed to mountain 
sickness and the other one would not leave his side. This was a 
grievous setback for us but now was no time for relaxing our 
efforts; having reached this stage the assault must continue. 

"Accordingly Bechtold and I set to work with a will and 
carried loads originally intended for four. Thus heavily burdened 
we set out once more for the ridge where Camp VII was to be 
set up. Our loads oppressed us cruelly as, puffing and panting 
and with painful slowness, we trudged on and up. It was seven 
o'clock in the evening when we finally gained the ridge. It was 
bitterly cold and there was not time to pick a good site. So, 
without further ado, we pitched our small assault tent on a 
narrow bridge in a crevasse. We intended on the morrow to 
climb the quite gently rising ridge towards the East Summit. 
Another five or six fine days and victory might well be ours. 
We could think and talk of nothing else. We did not stop to eat 
but settled down for the night and here, at an altitude of 23,000 
feet, dropped off into quiet deep sleep. 

"The next morning, however, great eddies of dense mist 
were billowing round the mountain. We tried to forge ahead 
but were driven back by fresh falls of snow. We huddled together 
in the crevasse and waited, but the snow continued unabated. 
There was nothing for it but to retreat to Camp VI. Twice we 
got lost in the impenetrable mist and were obliged to retrace 
our steps, but at the third attempt we found our way through 
the Mulde. Our trail had been completely obliterated and we 
had once more to plough along waist deep in the freshly fallen 
snow. We descended vertically so as to avoid setting off an 
avalanche. At one point we had no alternative but to negotiate 
a Bergschrund from a very awkwardly exposed position. We 
were dead tired when we reached Camp VI. 

"On 1st August it was still snowing hard and we were forced 
to the unpalatable decision temporarily to vacate Camp VI, 
this in order to conserve the provisions in the high camps 
brought up at the cost of such tremendous effort. The return 
journey with the sick coolie was a nerve-wracking business. 
The man could not hold himself erect, and every few minutes 
he would stumble and fall, remain prostrate and lick the snow 


The German-American Expedition of 1932 

as if he had taken leave of his senses. We had to muster all our 
mental and physical reserves to get him down the steep ice-wall 
of the Mulde. At Camp V we ran into our stalwart friend 
Lieutenant Frier with four coolies. He had managed, but only 
with persuasion, to bring his men through the deep new snow 
to this point. 

"Persistent foul weather drove us further down to Camp IV. 
Nanga Parbat was thrusting us back with her most powerful 
weapon. Continuous snow storms and the poor shape of the 
porters had worked together to bring about our downfall. The 
first serious assault on the mountain had been repelled. 

"And now, in Camp IV we waited impatiently for the sun 
and for an opportunity of renewing the attack. Of the coolies 
now coming up half were again mountain-sick. Nevertheless, on 
4th August, as the weather showed some signs of improvement, 
we planned our second assault on the summit. But the following 
day there was more snow and we were once again frustrated. 
Our mood was blacker than the weather. 

"One morning when the clouds lifted for a few hours we 
looked right down into the Rakhiot valley and saw the meadows 
gleaming and the smoke rising from Base Camp. Our eyes 
lingered longingly on the dark green of the pine forests. But, 
during all those weary days of waiting, Nanga Parbat had only 
to lift her icy crown above the clouds, revealing her summit 
clear and close, for us to jettison all thought of the green valleys 
and gentle foothills. In such moments we felt uplifted, and the 
apathy of waiting was replaced by the burning desire to reach 
our goal. 

"And then again it snowed. Our hopes, our dreams, our 
confidence in victory were buried beneath fall after fall of fresh 
snow. Bechtold, Aschenbrenner and Simon now decided to go 
down for good and start on their homeward journey. They 
advised us to do the same, but on 14th August, as the weather 
brightened again, Wiessner, Herron and I decided to try our 
luck once more and, with many regrets, we took our leave of 
the other three. In preparation for this final attempt we had to 
go down to Base Camp to re-provision and when, on 28th 
August, we were at last ready to set off up again, the short spell 


Nanga Parbat 

of fair weather had come to an end. The steep ascent to Camp II 
in loose powdery snow was agony, particularly for the porters. 
The sun beat down on us without mercy as we made our trail 
up the steep slopes knee-deep in snow. On reaching Camp IV 
heavy driving snow set in again. Nearly all our porters were 
complaining of frost-bite and nine of the twelve of them were 
feeling ill. 

"The next day and for days on end the snow continued to 
fall and kept us imprisoned in Camp IV. As the time passed 
and conditions deteriorated it became clear that we should 
have to abandon Camps V, VI and VII as they were, and 
sacrifice the equipment. With snow drifts four feet deep and 
nine coolies on the sick list there could be no question of 
pressing on to an altitude of 26,000 feet. There was nothing 
for it but to go back, and though we realized now that retreat 
was inevitable we all spent a sleepless night before we could 
bring ourselves to make the final decision. For the battle had 
been a tough one, we had come near to victory, and we were 
reluctant to throw in our hand. However, one thing was certain: 
Nanga Parbat could be climbed and climbed by our route. 
Would we be the ones to reach the summit?" 

On 1st September the decision was taken to go down. With 
the colossal masses of snow which had accumulated by this 
time it had become a question whether they could fight their 
way out at all. The sahibs in front ploughed a man-high trench 
in the snow with the weight of their whole bodies; the porters 
followed. If they chanced to stumble off the trail they had to be 
hauled back again by their companions, and the trail-makers 
were constantly setting avalanches in motion. On reaching 
Camp III the party was completely exhausted. But worse things 
awaited them in the Great Ice-fall. Wiessner was leading, 
followed by Herron, and, keeping to the route which had been 
used all through the summer, he stepped on to a sfrac at the 
side of an enormous crevasse. Suddenly the ice under Wiessner's 
feet gave way. For seconds he seemed to be suspended in space; 
then, as tons of ice were released and went crashing into the 
unseen depths of the crevasse, he disappeared from sight. 
Herron had been unable to hold him but his pull on the rope 


The German-American Expedition of 1932 

acted as a brake. Wiessner's fall was arrested fifty or sixty feet 
below. The chances were that he had been killed either by the 
impact of the ice or by the ice blocks falling on top of him. His 
companions dared not venture to the edge of the crevasse for fear 
of dislodging further masses of ice and burying Wiessner 
altogether. After some time they heard a muffled shout from 
below. But still there was nothing they could do. It appeared 
later that Wiessner had been stunned for a while but was unhurt 
by the larger fragments of the sfrac. His arm was injured and 
he found himself lying on a shelf. The overhanging wall of 
the crevasse above him crevasses often widen as they go 
deeper had probably saved him from being crushed, but at 
the same time made any immediate help from outside impossible. 
A pull on the rope might have freed the gigantic icicles above 
him and sent them crashing down on to him. He had to detach 
himself from the rope and make his own escape as best he could. 
Shocked, bruised and with one injured arm he cut steps towards 
a higher shelf, a brilliant feat of icemanship as Herron later 
testified. Once having reached this higher shelf he could be 
hauled up to safety. This hair's breadth escape from death 
seems to have been accepted as part of the general gloom of 
retreat and defeat, but this time Nanga Parbat had been 
merciful and spared the life of an eminent climber. 

Yet this expedition too had to end on a note of tragedy. On 
the journey home Herron climbed the two pyramids of Gizeh. 
On the way down from the second he started to run. He slipped 
on a loose pebble and fell to his death about three hundred feet 



The German Expedition 
of 1934 

MERKL WAS now anxious to complete what he had begun and, 
two years later, in the spring of 1934, thanks to the generosity 
of the Reichsbahn Gymnastic and Sports Clubs and to the 
staunch support of their then President, Heinz Baumeister, nine 
climbers and three scientists were able to set sail for India. 

Merkl, Bechtold and Aschenbrenner were veterans of 1932 
and the expedition was fortunate in having Lieutenant Frier 
once more as transport officer. The rest of the team were: 
MerkFs friend Willo Welzenbach, who in 1930 had first taken 
up the idea of climbing Nanga Parbat, Erwin Schneider and 
Uli Wieland, both of whom had participated in Dyhrenfurth's 
International Himalayan Expedition of 1930 to Kangchenjunga, 
Alfred Drexel, a railway man like Merkl, Peter Miillritter, the 
expedition's photographer and Willy Bernard who went as 
physician. Richard Finsterwalder, cartographer, Walter Raechl, 
geographer, and Peter Misch, geologist, formed the scientific 
contingent. Lieutenant Frier was supported by a second British 
transport officer, A. N. K. Sangster. Radio equipment was to 
be used on the mountain for the first time. The goodwill of the 
British public and of the authorities in India was won by a 
series of lectures, one of which took Merkl to London. 

Permission to enter the Chilas region was obtained in good 
time, and it was decided that the local Hunza porters should be 
replaced by the renowned Sherpas, to be recruited in Darjeeling. 


The German Expedition of 1934 

It was further agreed that the expedition should get off to an 
earlier start. 

By the end of April the main body of climbers had arrived in 
Srinagar. Wieland brought with him thirty-five Sherpa porters 
who made the best possible impression. They were accustomed 
to acting as personal orderlies to the individual climbers and at 
once set about "mothering" their charges. For the approach 
an army of Kashmiris was once more recruited, but this time 
the Sherpas dealt with them in their own truly "tiger-like" 
fashion and the' expedition was spared the troubles which had 
so distressed and confounded its counterpart in 1932. 

On 2nd May the columns of porters once again set off for the 
long trek across the high passes which at this early season were 
even more deeply covered in snow. On the Burzil Pass the sahibs 
put on skis to push ahead, leaving the Sherpas to police the 
porters who, in the rising heat of the day, often dropped into 
the snow from sheer exhaustion. Arrived in the Astor valley 
the expedition no longer needed to keep off the Chilas villages 
to the north and make its way over the ridges, but could enter 
the desert gorge of the Indus which here carries the road down 
to Chilas. They camped near the famous Rakhiot suspension 
bridge which spans the broad gorge of the Indus and which, for 
all its solidity, looks like some delicate tracery against the 
monstrous rocky desert which surrounds it. From this point the 
expedition could proceed in comparative comfort along the 
length of the Rakhiot valley. 

Only seventeen days after the departure from Srinagar, the 
world-famous Fairy Meadow was reached once again and tents 
were pitched for the interim Base Camp. The lesson of the last 
expedition had been learned and the stores were carefully 

Though they were still below the snow-line the climbers found 
their tents deeply snowed in on the morning following their 
arrival. The Sherpa porters spread out their prayer-flags, a 
practice unknown among the Moslem tribes in these parts, and 
with smiling happy faces offered sacrifices to the gods of Nanga 
Parbat. The scientists prepared to leave for their independent 
expedition which took them on a grand tour round the Nanga 


Nanga Parbat 

Parbat massif. Young Aschenbrenner promptly went off 
hunting, a pastime in which he was also to indulge, an older and 
wiser man, on the 1953 expedition. He brought back to camp 
two wolf cubs which were promptly adopted as mascots and 
christened Nanga and Parbat. The most suitable methods of 
teaching them civilized habits were an inexhaustible subject of 
conversation during leisurely evenings. After the spadework of 
the 1932 expedition and the careful preparation of their present 
assault plan, everything seemed to be progressing according to 
schedule. A light-hearted, expectant mood prevailed. 

At this early season it was still only the end of May the 
charming meadow, carpeted with flowers and be-ribboned with 
a bubbling stream, which had been the site of the 1932 Base 
Camp, was submerged in the white waste of the winter land- 
scape, but fortunately two small wooden poles still protruding 
from the snow indicated the exact spot. The Sherpas set to work 
with a will and soon excavated the old kitchen. Uli Wieland was 
tireless in organizing the porters and the storage of the loads, 
and also found time to set up a miniature meteorological station. 
To "work like Uli Wieland" was a catch-phrase of later 

Though the Sherpas exceeded all expectations in the pro- 
ficiency of their icemanship, this year the finding of a route 
through the Great Ice-fall guarding the first tier of the Rakhiot 
glacier presented far greater difficulties than it had in 1932. 
This time the party, led by Welzenbach, got stuck midway and 
decided to bivouac there in spite of constant danger from the 
movement of the ice. On 1st June they at last managed to gain 
a convenient camp site near the position of Camp II in 1932. 
Without delay the advance party pressed on to establish Camp 
III on the second tier. Time was saved by dispensing with ice 
caves and living in tents only. But glacier conditions were 
decidedly worse. The ice was in motion and split into crevasses 
even where the camps were standing. Ice avalanches roared down 
from the North-East Flank without respite as the glacier 
groaned and cracked beneath the tents. 

The glacier had so completely changed since 1932 that Camp 
III was at first wrongly placed. On 6th June the two Austrians, 


The German Expedition of 1934 

Aschenbrenner and Schneider, went ahead to make the trail 
to the highest glacier plateau and incidentally discovered a 
better site for Camp III. A blizzard had sprung up and they 
descended again to meet Drexel and Welzenbach who were on 
their way up. Drexel was in a state of exhaustion and was the 
last to reach the camp. He complained of a headache and during 
the night became delirious. The others, Welzenbach, Aschen- 
brenner and Schneider, urgently advised him to go down. At 
first he would have none of this but later agreed to descend 
while Aschenbrenner and Schneider went ahead again to 
establish Camp IV. 

In spite of adverse conditions splendid progress had been 
made; it was still only the beginning of June. With the help of 
the excellent Sherpas the obstacle of the Rakhiot Peak or of the 
Mulde would doubtless be overcome. The first objective, the 
East Arete, seemed to be within reach. But now a blow fell 
which threw into confusion the work so brilliantly begun and 
destroyed the happy confident mood in which the expedition 
had got under way. Drexel arrived in Camp II breathing with 
difficulty, his face discoloured ; he still made light of his illness, 
but Bechtold and Miillritter immediately sent word that Dr. 
Bernard should come up. Drexel had a restless night but seemed 
fresher in the morning; then suddenly he became worse. The 
Sherpas rose to the occasion wonderfully and demonstrated 
their utter loyalty and reliability. Bechtold's orderly, Pasang, 
was sent up to Camp III to fetch an additional tent and sleeping- 
bag, but came back with the report that the advance party had 
moved on to Camp IV. Drexel lost consciousness during the 
day. The faithful Pasang went down through the ice-fall to 
Camp I and on the same afternoon brought up the doctor. 
Pneumonia was diagnosed. Drexel's condition was serious. 
Pasang had already made the journey up to Camp III and down 
to Camp I on the same day. Now, in a raging snow storm he 
once more set off over the ice-fall to Camp I to fetch oxygen. 
He arrived back with Uli Wieland at 3 a.m. Carrying the oxygen 
equipment they had groped their way up over a maze of seracs 
and crevasses through the blizzard and in total darkness. But 
Drexel was already dead. 


Nanga Parbat 

The news brought the advance party down from the top 
camps, and on llth June Drexel was buried in a grave on top 
of the moraine mound overlooking the Base Camp. Eventually, 
after an interval of seventeen days, the assault, which had 
started under such happy auguries, continued under the shadow 
of grief. Nanga Parbat had claimed her fourth victim. 

Not until 25th June did the team once more occupy Camp IV, 
the assault base on the highest tier of the glacier, above the 
20,000 feet line, and near the main ridge between Chongra and 
Rakhiot Peaks. Ramona, the ever cheerful "Nanga Parbat 
Cook", took over the kitchen tent, where he had officiated two 
years before. But even then progress was slow. Merkl had 
originally intended to stick to the 1932 route, cutting through 
below the Rakhiot North Spur and crossing the Mulde straight 
up to the East Arete. But snow conditions in 1934 made this 
out of the question. Furthermore, a perpendicular ice-wall had 
formed, obstructing, the access to the Mulde. So Camp V was 
pushed along the main ridge to a point 21,950 feet high, close 
to the foot of the Rakhiot north-east ice-wall. With the 
excellent Sherpas a route might be found up the ice-wall and 
through the gap in the Rakhiot North Spur to the East Arete 
behind. Steps would have to be cut in the ice-wall and the route 
made safe for the porters by means of fixed ropes. 

On the morning of 1st July the assault team set off. Everyone 
was keyed up to a state of extreme tension. Aschenbrenner, 
Schneider and Welzenbach were clinging to the wall like flies, 
cutting steps in a zig-zag path and driving pitons into the sheer 
ice. The first rope-ladders were put into place. Altogether 600 
feet of rope was used in preparing this formidable ice- wall. The 
following day Merkl and Bechtold took over and, in company 
with the indefatigable Welzenbach, finished the work on the 
upper part of the ice-wall. They realized that for heavily laden 
porters, even of the calibre of the Sherpas, the route presented 
the last extremes of technical difficulty. Gradually they worked 
their way towards the gap in the sharp Rakhiot North Spur 
from which point the route would have to traverse the exposed 
west flank of Rakhiot Peak towards the upper part of the Mulde 
and the East Arete. With bursting lungs they gained the rocks 


The German Expedition of 1934 

of the Spur. Their first glance was not towards the summit 
which was now revealed, but to the continuation of the 
route across the Rakhiot west flank. Thank heaven, it was 

On that day, 4th July, the Sherpas were put to their supreme 
test. They rose to the occasion magnificently. Some of them had 
never before been on a slope of this breath-taking steepness. 
But whenever a sahib looked anxiously back he saw proud, 
smiling faces. Schneider and Aschenbrenner had already 
stretched a guide rope over the glazed slabs of the west flank 
and every single porter crossed this ultra severe pitch with the 
abyss of the Mulde yawning below. 

At last they were on the East Arete. It had come off. Camp VI 
went up fairly close to Rakhiot Peak. The next day, 5th July, 
the party pressed on. The race against time was on. Thick 
clouds were already gathering in the valleys below. Wieland, 
for the first time, handed over the task of supervising the porters 
to others. Was this already a sign of failing strength? Some of 
the Sherpas, too, reported sick and went down. 

The sharp snow ridge of the East Arete is broken by a dramatic 
crag of black granite, about fifty feet high. This was named the 
Moor's Head. Did it not look more like a tombstone? After the 
Moor's Head the Arete takes a sudden dip of 400 feet and then 
sweeps in an elegant curve up to the Silver Saddle which, 
flanked by the two east summits, gives like some mystic portal 
on to the great Silver Plateau. This vast expanse, 24,500 feet up, 
still kept its secrets. The next camp, Camp VII, was set slightly 
beyond the dip at an altitude of 23,570 feet, on a curiously 
shaped, billow -like snow formation which the climbers called 
the Schaumrolle or Whipped Cream Roll. The climbers spent a 
restless night, Welzenbach and Wieland complaining of breath- 
ing difficulties. The next morning two more Sherpas reported 
sick and had to be taken down by Bechtold. Now only eleven 
porters were left to support the last vital thrust up to the Silver 

The lower camps were already experiencing heavy falls of 
snow, but the advance party were above the clouds and enjoying 
glorious sunshine. On the morning of 6th July five climbers 


Nanga Parbat 

and eleven porters started off for the Silver Saddle. Aschen- 
brenner and Schneider, who were still in excellent form, pushed 
ahead and cut steps for the party following. At 10.30 a.m. they 
set foot on the Silver Plateau. The breath-taking vista was 
opened for the first time as the vast wind-fluted plateau spread 
before them. At its far corners they could see the two north 
summits to the right and the Fore-Summit to the left, between 
them the wide sweep of the Diamir depression. The final 
route from the Fore-Summit to the summit proper was still 

Aschenbrenner and Schneider waited for two hours until at 
last Welzenbach with two porters could be seen emerging from 
the rim of the Silver Saddle. Then they went ahead to find a site 
for the final camp, Camp VIII, as near as possible to the 
plateau's far extremity. They lighted on a suitable place about 
200 feet below the Fore-Summit and waited for the others to catch 
up. But nobody came. Schneider went back. After a further 
one and a half hours of waiting Aschenbrenner too returned to 
the Silver Saddle. Merkl, Welzenbach and Wieland had arrived 
there with their eleven porters at 2 p.m. and had at once decided 
to pitch their tents for Camp VIII there. Schneider had failed 
to persuade them to push on to the further edge of the 

Speculation was rife later as to whether the two Austrians 
could not have reached the summit of Nanga Parbat on this 
occasion had they not twice halted, once on the Silver Saddle 
and later below the Fore-Summit for the rear party to catch up. 
They had reached a point where they were only 900 feet below 
the main summit and little more than half a mile's distance. 
But the experience of Hermann Buhl suggests that these 
calculations were ill-founded, and it is very likely that Buhl 
was grievously misled by them. 

Everyone in Camp VIII was convinced that the morrow would 
bring the fulfilment of their dream, and the anticipation of 
victory was so keen that no one could settle down for the night. 
Even post-summit plans came in for discussion. 

Towards the morning of 7th July it became evident that a 
storm was brewing; as the hours passed the wind increased in 


The German Expedition of 1934 

strength and swelled into a mighty gale. Coldly, abruptly, the 
golden dreams of achievement were shattered. Under the 
impact of the storm the tent poles snapped, and in spite of tight 
lacing fine snow penetrated the tent flaps and settled inches deep 
on the sleeping-bags. The camp was enveloped in dense fog and 
the wind lashed the tents with tempestuous force. It was almost 
impossible to breathe in the open and, worst disaster of all, the 
petrol stoves failed so that no warm food could be prepared. 

The second night brought no sleep. The elements were 
unleashed and the storm raged on. There could no longer be any 
thought of reaching the summit; it was now a question of 
survival, of the climbers' extricating themselves alive from this 
witches' cauldron. 

On the morning of 8th July they decided on retreat. Schneider 
and Aschenbrenner went ahead to make the trail, Merkl, 
Welzenbach and Wieland following at some distance with the 
Sherpas. This main column was already in poor shape and had 
not even reached Camp VII on the Schaumrolle when dusk fell. 

Below in Camp IV no one had any suspicion of the tragedy 
about to be enacted above and there was still full confidence in 
victory. Camp V, however, was cut off by deep snow and on 
7th July (the day which kept the advance party storm-bound in 
Camp VIII), a small party from Camp IV tried to open up the 
route to Camp V, but were forced back by the loose, newly- 
fallen snow. A blizzard raged all through the following night 
and it was only during that night that the advance party 
realized the mortal danger of their situation. On the morning 
of the 8th the clouds parted for a moment and the watchers 
below saw five men descending from the Silver Saddle. Were 
they returning from a victorious assault on the summit? No 
one knew what the weather was like up there. ... At 7 p.m. 
Aschenbrenner and Schneider suddenly appeared in Camp IV 
totally exhausted. In the blizzard they had become separated 
from their three porters and the main party in the rear who, 
they said, would follow in due course. The summit had not 
fallen, but they still hoped another attempt might bring victory. 

In the days which followed, however, a drama of heart- 
rending tragedy unfolded itself before the helpless onlookers 


Nanga Parbat 

below. The next morning, 9th July, the clouds parted once 
again to reveal the East Arete. A large party was seen descending 
from the Silver Saddle. It seemed incredible that they had got 
no further than this in the two days which had passed. Higher 
up on the ridge one man was seen to sit down. Once more the 
snow storm lowered its cruel curtain. The vision was lost. Later 
it was known that Wieland had lain down in the snow there and 
died from exhaustion. It was now clear beyond peradventure of 
doubt that the men on the East Arete were engaged in a life and 
death struggle and that their comrades below were powerless 
to help them. During the night more fresh snow fell. The next 
morning, 10th July, seven porters were seen coming down from 
Rakhiot Peak. Only four of these reached the shelter of Camp 
IV, the other three, exhausted and suffering severe frost-bite 
had collapsed and died on the Rakhiot flank. Among the 
survivors were Pasang, hero of Drexel's last hours, and Kikuli 
who later won renown as Sirdar on K2. 

It was now learned that the main party in their retreat had 
had to bivouac while still on the Silver Plateau and that one of 
the porters had died during this night. Angtsering and Gay-Lay, 
Merkl's orderlies, and another porter, Dakshi, who felt ill, had 
bivouacked a second night on the Silver Plateau. As already 
recorded, Wieland had died on the way to Camp VII. 

Owing to lack of sleeping space at Camp VII there was only 
one tent there Merkl had sent four porters on to Camp VI. 
This proved to be their salvation. Unable to reach the camp in 
the blizzard, they had spent the night in an ice cave. Continuing 
their descent on the following day, they had run into the three 
porters who had been in Aschenbrenner's and Schneider's party 
but had lagged behind. Two of them were beyond help and died 
the same day. One man of their own party had also died. Such 
was the story, told in gasps, of the four Sherpas who reached 
Camp IV. There was little hope that those they had left behind 
were still alive. 

There followed two more nights of snow and storm. On 
12th July Aschenbrenner, Schneider and Miillritter, with three 
Sherpas, set out once again from Camp IV to fight their way 
through the billowing masses of new snow to Camp V. This 


The German Expedition of 1934 

they accomplished, but their further advance was foiled by the 
onset of another furious blizzard. The outlook now seemed 
utterly hopeless and it was decided that the high camps should 
be evacuated the following day. 

But on that day, 13th July, the curtain of cloud was once 
more swept aside and the incredulous watchers below saw three 
men descending from Camp VII on the Schaumrolle towards the 
dip in the East Arete (Camp VI lay on the counter-gradient near 
Rakhiot Peak). One man was seen to step forward and cries for 
help were carried down with the wind. On the evening of the 
next day Angtsering, Merkl's young orderly, staggered into 
Camp IV, in the last stages of exhaustion and suffering severe 
frost-bite. It now became clear that the three men who had been 
seen on the previous day were Merkl himself and Angtsering 
and Gay-Lay. The two orderlies had been the last to leave the 
bivouac on the Silver Plateau on llth July after their fellow 
porter Dakshi* had died in his sleeping-bag. They found Merkl 
and Welzenbach in Camp VII. There was nothing to eat, but 
Merkl was confident that the comrades, who could be seen 
below in Camp IV, would come to the rescue, bringing food 
with them, and he preferred to wait. During the night of 12th 
July Welzenbach died. Merkl and his two orderlies were now 
the only living men on the Arete. They left the Schaumrolle on 
the 13th, Merkl painfully supporting himself on two ice-axes. 
He could not manage the rise to Camp VI on the Rakhiot side 
of the Arete and so an ice cave was dug in the dip. It was during 
that day that the clouds had parted and Angtsering was seen 
from below and his shouts heard. Gay-Lay shared his own 
groundsheet and porter's blanket with his master, while 
Angtsering had only a blanket. As the following day, 14th July, 
still brought no rescue, Merkl agreed that Angtsering should 
fight his way down alone and summon help. He and Gay-Lay 
were so weak that they could move only three yards from the 
cave. So Angtsering had come to tell of their plight. 

But no rescue was possible. The next morning, 15th July, the 
wind still carried cries for help from the Arete to the helpless 

* Dakshi had won fame for his climb of the North Col of Mount Everest in 
1933 without climbers' escort. 


Nanga Parbat 

onlookers below, but nothing could be seen. During the course 
of the 16th and 17th, Aschenbrenner and Schneider made 
desperate attempts to reach Camp V, but without success. 
Their state of mind is barely imaginable. The blizzard raged on 
without respite. The cries from above ceased. Willy Merkl and 
his faithful Gay-Lay were silent for ever. 

There is little doubt that Gay-Lay laid down his life in loyalty 
to his master. He had been Bruce's servant on the Mount 
Everest Expedition of 1922 and had at first been considered too 
old to take part in the Nanga Parbat Expedition. But he had 
proved himself magnificently from the start. During the fateful 
night of Drexel's death Merkl had sent him to Base Camp to 
fetch oxygen which Wieland and Pasang took back through the 
ice-fall. An obituary in the Himalayan Journal said of his last 
days: "He deliberately chose the heroic part of staying beside 
his leader and master and sent down the younger porter Angt- 
sering to safety. ... He was married and left a widow." 

For some years it was presumed that Merkl and Gay-Lay 
had died where they had been left by Angtsering. But in 1938 
Merkl's friend Fritz Bechtold stood once more on the East Arete 
and discovered that Merkl must have dragged himself up to the 
Moor's Head. It is probable that it took him several days to 
work his frost-bitten limbs up this 400 feet rise. Bechtold wrote 
later: "Willy's posture suggested that when he had lain down 
he had not done with life. He had slipped off his gloves and 
spread them out on his thighs. He looked as if he had just 
wanted to rest a while." The Moor's Head, a compact block of 
granite, symbol of inflexible resolution, became Merkl's natural 

In Willy Merkl's pocket Bechtold found the following note 
written by Willo Welzenbach in Camp VII on 10th July, 1934: 

"To the Sahibs between Camps VI and IV, particularly 
Dr. Sahib. We have been lying here after having lost Uli 
(Wieland) on the way down. Both of us are sick. An attempt 
to get through to VI has failed owing to general weakness. 
I, Willo (Welzenbach), have probably got bronchitis, angina 
and influenza. Bara Sahib (Merkl) is in a state of exhaustion 


The German Expedition of 1934 

and has frost-bite on hands and feet. Neither of us has had 
any warm food for six days and we have had hardly anything 
to drink. Please send help to us here in Camp VII. 

Willo and Willy." 

Thus Welzenbach's and Merkl's last letter, and the last chapter 
in a disaster, which in sheer protracted agony has no parallel 
in mountaineering history. 



The German Expedition 

AFTER THE frightful disaster of 1934 the mountaineers of 
Germany closed their ranks and, under the inspiration of Pau 
Bauer, who had led the two great German Himalaya expeditions 
of 1929 and 1931 to Kangchenjunga, the German Himalaya 
Foundation came into being. With the experience of the 1932 
and 1934 expeditions to draw upon Bauer maintained that 
Nanga Parbat offered better prospects of success than Kang- 
chenjunga and he proposed to tackle it in 1936. The British 
Government, however, would allow only one expedition a year 
over the "Gilgit Road" across the Burzil Pass (as a precaution 
against the entire dislocation of local transport) and a large 
French expedition had already been sanctioned for that year. 
It was decided therefore that the 1936 expedition should again 
go to Kangchenjunga and should serve as a preparation for a 
major assault on Nanga Parbat in the following year. Bauer 
took with him Karlo Wien, whom he had earmarked as a 
possible leader of the Nanga Parbat expedition, and who, with 
Adolf Gottner and Giinther Hepp, would form the nucleus of 
the 1937 team. Wien had already been on Kangchenjunga with 
Bauer in 1931. 

Accordingly, the German Himalaya Foundation was able 
to muster an impressive group of climbers for its 1937 Himalaya 
expedition. Hans Hartmann, Wien's companion on the 1931 
expedition to "Kantsch", was persuaded to join the party. 
Hartmann was at first reluctant; he had been so severely frost- 
bitten that the front halves of both his feet had had to be 


The German Expedition of 1937 

amputated and he had to wear short boots which gave his feet 
the appearance of horses' hooves. He felt he might be a drag 
on the party and that his place should be taken by one who was a 
hundred per cent fit, but he was overjoyed when his scruples 
were overridden. He had since 1931 been making a close study 
of the effects of high altitude on human physiology. He was 
joined by Peter Miillritter, a survivor of the disaster of 1934, 
Pert Fankhauser, and Martin Pfeffer. Uli Luft was attached to 
the expedition as physiologist and Karl Troll accompanied it as 
geographer and botanist. It was a very powerful team and 
enjoyed the backing of the whole German nation. Wien had 
personally selected a fine team of Sherpas the previous year and 
much of the equipment had already been sent out. Hopes ran 

The expedition's progress from Srinagar followed the now 
familiar "Gilgit Road" (the last time that this route skirting the 
mountain to the east was used for the approach). In spite of bad 
weather Camp IV was established on 1 1th June, this time in a 
shallow declivity somewhat nearer to Rakhiot Peak. Compared 
with the route up the Rakhiot glacier which was under the 
constant threat of avalanches, Camp IV, just below the main 
ridge between the Chongra Group and Rakhiot Peak, seemed 
to be relatively safe. Far away an inconspicuous ice cornice was 
seen to be suspended from the main ridge leading up to Rakhiot 
Peak but was not considered to be a serious threat. It was 
intended to push ahead without delay and establish Camp V 
nearer to the foot of Rakhiot Peak. On 14th June the only 
climber in the lower camps was the physiologist Uli Luft who 
was working at Base Camp. All the others were up at Camp IV 
with nine Sherpa porters, making sixteen men in all, an extra- 
ordinarily high number considering that the initial build-up 
was still in progress and no decisive assault was under way. 

It seems to have happened shortly after midnight according 
to the watches of the dead men. The small cornice suspended 
from the Rakhiot east ridge broke away and, gathering an 
enormous avalanche on its long and comparatively flat course, 
swept right on to Camp IV, burying the men there as they slept. 

Down at Base Camp Uli Luft was without forebodings. He 


Nanga Parbat 

had had a note from Wien telling him that Camp V would be 
established immediately the weather improved and the weather 
since had been absolutely magnificent. On 16th June he decided 
to take a convoy of five porters with provisions and mail up to 
the high camps. On the 18th, three days after the night of the 
avalanche, he led his troupe from Camp II to Camp III in 
brilliant weather, looking expectantly towards Rakhiot Peak 
where Camp V should have gone up since he had last had news. 
He hurried on to Camp IV, and by midday reached the original 
site which he knew had been evacuated on 10th June in favour 
of one higher up which was considered safer. 

He could make out the track which led onwards from above 
the still hidden camp though there was no sign of any activity. 
At last he found himself on the uppermost tier of the glacier at 
a height which revealed the entire sweep of the main ridge from 
the Chongra Group to the Rakhiot Peak ahead. The hollow 
where the camp should have stood was filled with broken masses 
of ice; a faint trail led away along the steep ridge and lost itself 
at the foot of the Rakhiot Ice-wall. 

As Luft stood in utter and bewildered loneliness on the spot 
where he should have found a scene of bustling activity (eager 
to join his friends he had hurried ahead of the porters) he could 
no longer shut his mind to the terrible meaning of the leaden 
silence around him. A gigantic avalanche had hurled tons of ice 
over the entire plateau of the glacier and had carried a few 
scattered tins and rucksacks into the abyss below. The camp must 
lay buried somewhere beneath his feet. 

For several desperate hours Luft and the porters who had 
joined him attempted the impossible to cut with their light 
picks through the many layers of ice-blocks, which by then had 
congealed into a solid mass, and to extricate the climbers. But 
even if by some miracle they had hit on the exact spot and had 
been able to remove the cover of ice, there could be no hope of 
finding their friends alive. According to the assault plan the 
higher camps should have been established well before this; 
the disaster therefore must have occurred several days earlier. 
Had any of the climbers escaped they would long since have 
made contact with the lower camps. 


The German Expedition of 1937 

The fact had to be faced: the mountain which already had 
devoured so many lives had at one vicious blow trapped and 
destroyed the flower of German climbers. Describing later 
the moment when he fully realized that he was powerless to help 
his friends even in death Luft said: "The Silver Saddle gleamed 
in the sun high above me, serene and withdrawn. The team was 
no more." 

A short message transmitted by Reuter informed the world 
of the unparalleled tragedy. The German nation was shaken to 
the core. When the details of the disaster became fully known, 
Bauer at the Himalaya Foundation Headquarters in Munich 
felt that only one course was open to him. As the head of the 
Foundation he had devised the whole project, trained the 
nucleus of the assault team and finally sent them on their way. 
Although the season was well advanced he conceived it his duty 
to go out himself and take charge of the excavation work. 

He summoned Fritz Bechtold, co-founder of the organization, 
and Dr. Kraus. The British government placed an R.A.F. 'plane 
at their disposal for the flight from Lahore to Gilgit, an offer 
which was gratefully accepted as a "splendid gesture". On 
8th July they arrived at the foot of the mountain. Bauer was 
met near the Base Camp by Luft and the two men shook hands 
in silence. Da Tondup, sole survivor of the magnificent Sherpa 
team, and the faithful "Nanga Parbat Cook", Ramona, were 
there too. 

The story which Luft told was not encouraging. Prodigious 
help had been given by the British. Lieutenant Smart who had 
been at Base Camp as transport officer had, immediately he 
heard of the disaster, sent a runner to Chilas to fetch coolies 
with pick-axes and spades. Captain Mackenzie had arrived from 
Chilas, having ridden day and night to summon all available 
porters with implements, and large numbers of mountain 
peasants had begun to stream into the Base Camp. Soon after, 
Major Cropper had brought a picked team of Scouts who were 
trained climbers. He himself had covered 160 miles on horse- 
back and had climbed up straightaway without stopping for 
rest. He it was who had brought Uli Luft the news that Bauer 
was on his way out from Germany. In spite of all endeavours 


Nanga Parbat 

it had not proved possible to force the Great Ice-fall before 
Camp II where considerable ice movement had destroyed all 
the tracks. In the meantime the army men had had to leave 
because of other duties. 

The situation was grim. There could be no question of 
gradually building up the route to Camp IV; there was not 
enough equipment nor enough men. And, assuming they could 
reach the scene of the tragedy, a major problem would still 
confront them there. Himalayan ice is tough, and solidifies into 
a gluey compact mass which cannot be splintered off with 
pick-axes, but has to be carved out layer by layer. Would the 
few men who might fight their way up have the sheer physical 
strength to locate the lost camp beneath the gigantic avalanche 
and then extricate it ? It was a desperate task and was undertaken 
with the slenderest resources. 

Before setting out, Bauer had to redeem another promise to 
assuage an earlier grief. The Base Camp marked the grave of 
Alfred Drexel, the first of Merkl's comrades to die in 1934. 
Drexel's parents had given Bauer roses and earth from his home 
and a small candle to be the modest implements of a service of 
commemoration. Bauer and his friends gathered around the 
grave and, shielding the flickering flame from the chill evening 
breeze, stood there with their thoughts and their prayers until 
the candle had burned itself out. 

Bauer scanned the remote scene of the disaster through his 
telescope, but there was no movement to be seen. Once he 
thought he could make out a tent; but closer scrutiny revealed 
the shape as yet another block of ice amidst the dead wilderness 
of the glacier. "In the heights above nothing lived." With these 
words Bauer recounts his final resignation to a task of merely 
salvaging the dead bodies of his friends. 

Bauer was forced to the conclusion that the normal route 
through the Great Ice-fall would now be impassable. As long 
as the surface remained hard it could be negotiated in spite 
of the considerable movement of the ice underneath. But the 
heat of the many perfect summer days just past had loosened 
the surface. By an irony of fate the weeks following the disaster 
would have offered an ideal period for an attack on the summit. 


The German Expedition of 1937 

The only possible way to overcome the ice-fall was by keeping 
more to the right nearer to the dreaded North-East Flank. 
Because of the heat its huge rock walls and couloirs were now 
clear of snow and avalanches were less probable. It had to be 

To make matters worse Bauer was laid low with an attack 
of malaria soon after entering the ice-fall and had to be carried 
back to Base Camp. Bechtold, Kraus and Luft, however, got 
safely through. Three days later Bauer was able to observe the 
party approaching the scene of the disaster. But then Bechtold 
fell ill and had to turn back in company with a sick porter. The 
exertion of the forced ascent had been too great. He told Bauer 
that the avalanche field was enormous and, as Luft had estimated, 
must cover an area of fifteen acres. It was frozen like rock and 
there was not the slightest indication where the buried camp 
might be. 

Bauer determined to go up at once to assist his friends and 
after doctoring himself with quinine set out with one porter, 
Jussup Khan. Jussup Khan had been responsible for spreading 
wild stories about the disaster in the village of Tato. He had 
said that the white women of the mountain had come every 
evening to dance before the Sahibs in Camp IV and that they 
had in the end destroyed the camp while all the men were 
sleeping. With this strange companion Bauer reached Camp IV 
on 20th July, i.e., in two days, a terrific feat for a man no longer 
young and not yet acclimatized. He found there Ramona, the 
faithful elderly cook, who had generously offered his help for 
the excavation, but was now feeling ill. He pointed further up 
where the others were digging. Snow was flying from a trench 
on the edge of the vast avalanche field. Luft, Kraus and two 
porters were digging there. 

The day before they had, by a million to one chance, found 
the camp site. For five days they had dug trenches here and 
there and had begun to feel discouraged by the hopelessness of 
their task. Then Luft had dug up an ice-axe, then two cigarette 
ends, then an empty tin. The camp could not be far away. 

At a height which made every movement arduous, the party 
laboured to probe into the granite-like frozen mass of the 


Nanga Parbat 

avalanche, ten to thirteen feet thick, in which their dead comrades 
were buried. It was body-breaking and heart-breaking work. 

After two hours, Luft's implement encountered a human body 
and, there, his face peaceful, his woollen cap stiff on his frozen 
curls, lay Pasang. As Sirdar Nursang had requested that the 
corpses of the Sherpas should remain undisturbed, they dug 
no further at this spot. But this sad discovery enabled them to 
decide the approximate site of the climbers' tents and they 
set to work again. 

Their probes located the position of two tents and they 
redoubled their efforts, hacking out two trenches down to them, 
fighting the ice for every inch. At last they managed to uncover 
one of the tents. In it, embedded in the snow were the bodies of 
Pfeffer and Hartmann. Beyond, more inaccessible, lay another. 
The faces of the two men were relaxed and calm, as if they 
dreamed serenely; their bodies were at ease. The watch on 
Hartmann's wrist had stopped at 12.20. Bauer put it in his 
pocket and it started to go again in the warmth. The disaster, 
then, must have occurred at, or shortly before, 12.20. 

The third body was more difficult to release from the vice- 
like embrace of the ice. Almost super-human work was required 
of the team before the body of Giinther Hepp was freed. 

The tent in the second trench was the one occupied by Wien 
and Fankhauser. A huge block of ice, about 25 feet wide pressed 
down on the top of it and defied the endeavours of the rescue 
party, already exhausted by their exertions. They found almost 
all the personal belongings of their friends and much of their 
equipment, which was intact the barograph by Wien's side 
stood ready for use but they had to stop their attempts to 
remove the bodies that day. 

On the following day, only two members of the rescue party 
were in fit condition to continue the grim task. Kraus and Luft 
alone were able to work. The two hefty porters were ill, and 
Bauer, physically spent, could merely encourage and advise the 
diggers. Finally, the icy tomb yielded up the bodies of Wien and 
Fankhauser, and they, with Hartmann, Hepp and Pfeffer were 
laid in a communal heroes' grave. 

The bodies of Miillritter and Gottner were never recovered. 


The German Expedition of 1937 

The rescue party had to abandon its search for the last tent 
which lay somewhere deep down in the bowels of the avalanche. 

The team was utterly exhausted and at the end of their 
endurance; their food and fuel supplies were used up. Sadly they 
paid their last respects at the graveside of the brave men whose 
lives had been claimed by Nanga Parbat Pick-axes, probes and 
rope marked the burial ground and a slab of ice stood as a 
tombstone. A thunderstorm began to break as they wearily 
staggered down towards Base Camp, their gruelling toil ended. 

Bechtold and Smart, meanwhile, were anxiously awaiting the 
party's return. Their telescopes scanned the mountain, and as 
the hours went by, they grew more and more fearful for the 
safety of the rescuers. Just as they decided to set off on a search, 
the stumbling figures appeared in sight. The tragic mission was 

A number of unforeseeable circumstances was responsible for 
the tragedy which overtook this 1937 expedition. The extra- 
ordinarily cold weather and an heavy fall of snow had produced 
a hard, powdery surface, over which the ice of the avalanche 
slid to a much greater distance than would normally have been 
the case. The camp, which had been set, for safety, in a hollow, 
was completely deluged by the fall. 

The men had apparently been totally unaware and unwarned 
of the approaching end. The composed expressions on their 
faces, their relaxed limbs, showed that death overtook them as 
they slept. Nanga Parbat had shown some mercy to her victims. 

It seemed that Fate must have willed that the whole team 
should perish. In the first place Camp IV had been moved to 
an apparently safer site, yet the original site remained unscathed; 
secondly, if Camp V could, as was intended, have been estab- 
lished on 14th June, the team and the Sherpas would have been 
distributed in two camps instead of all being assembled in the 

On receiving the news of the disaster, the Calcutta Statesman 
said in a leading article: 

"To Germany Nanga Parbat will call more challengingly 
still. For German mountaineers have a claim to it that all 
recognize with sympathy. 'Homage to the dead,' wrote Dr. Karl 




The Camps on the Rakhiot Route (1953) 
For numbering of Camps see p. 160. 


JteAAto/ ^ow/^ (1953) 

Nanga Parbat 

Wien some weeks ago, 'demanded that after 1934 Nanga 
Parbat should be the goal of the next German expedition to 
vindicate that tragic blow.' Seven more Germans lie in that ice 
and snow to make the argument still stronger. A throwing 
away of good lives? When men no longer risk their lives in 
trying to do things never yet done the human race will be on 
the downward curve." 

The history of mountaineering has no parallel to the disaster 
of 1937, but the German climbers had not yet finished with 
Nanga Parbat. 



The German Expedition 
of 1938 

BAUER, UNDAUNTED, decided himself to lead a further expedition 
to Nanga Parbat. Although he was no longer young and had 
seriously strained his heart on Kangchenjunga in 1931, there 
was absolutely no doubt that he was the man best fitted to 
undertake this exacting task. His gallant effort to excavate 
his dead comrades the year before had won widespread admira- 
tion and he set out on his last attempt to conquer Nanga Parbat 
with the fullest support of the German and British authorities. 
He was unable to use the " Gilgit Road " for his approach as, once 
again, another expedition had already been sanctioned for that 
year, but the military authorities were sufficiently sympathetic 
to send two hundred labourers to put the mountain-track from 
the Kaghan valley across the Babusar Pass to the Indus gorge 
into commission. All subsequent expeditions were to follow 
this western approach. 

With Bauer were Merkl's old friend Bechtold, now on the 
mountain for the fourth time, and Uli Luft, the sole survivor 
of the 1937 team. Newcomers were Schmaderer who had been 
on the Twins East Ridge in 1937, Zuck, Rebitsch, Ruths and 
von Chlingensperg. For the first time in the history of Himalayan 
climbing it was planned that loads for the higher camps should 
be dropped from the air. The great expanse of the Silver Plateau 
was thought to offer a good field for this experiment, but as 
there were inevitably still some doubts about the effectiveness of 
an airborne transport service, double supplies were taken along. 


Nanga Parbat 

Special care was given to the selection of radio equipment and 
to the organization of a dependable weather report service. 
Every member of the team was capable of reaching the high 
camps, which meant that there would be a large reserve from 
which the summit pair could be chosen. The British Everest 
Expedition of 1953 made use of the same strategy; the quality 
of the team was such that each member had the ability as well 
as the desire to get to the top, but would at the same time be 
ready to serve the common enterprise in a less exalted role. In 
one direction, however, Bauer suffered severe frustration. The 
seasoned Sherpas refused to have anything to do with the 
expedition; fear of the mountain, even in those stout hearts, was 
too strong. There was hardly a Sherpa family which could not 
count a close relative among the dead. Eventually a few young 
and inexperienced Sherpas and Bhutias came forward. Their 
morale was not good, but who could blame them? Even 
Bechtold confessed that he and Bauer and their comrades were 
unable to approach Nanga Parbat with the old freedom of 

Time was running short. It was already June when the build- 
up on the mountain began. In spite of snow storms which 
repeatedly interrupted the smooth flow of supplies, camps were 
pushed up the Rakhiot glacier, and the assault base (Camp IV), 
this time on the 1932 and 1934 site, away from the spot where 
the avalanche had buried the 1937 team, was not established 
until 24th June. The further consolidation of the route was 
impeded by persistently bad weather. July was more than half 
over before Camp V, near Rakhiot Peak, could be established. 
It was a thoroughly disheartening start. 

Bauer was "obsessed", as he said later, with the thought 
that both the route through the Mulde and the alternative 
traverse of the Rakhiot Ice-wall must be avoided. In the 
conditions then prevailing the one offered the ugly threat of 
avalanches and the other was probably impassable for the 
inexperienced porters. He wanted to strike half-way between 
the upper and lower variants of the route: to him it seemed 
possible to ascend gently from Camp V and to traverse the foot 
of Rakhiot Peak underneath the not very prominent north-west 


The German Expedition of 1938 

buttress of the Peak and to enter the Mulde higher up where 
snow conditions had usually been quite favourable. 

During the first reconnaissance of the new route the advance 
party discovered the body of a Sherpa porter hanging on 
weather-beaten ropes head downwards on the Rakhiot Ice-wall. 
It was Pinju Norbu who had perished during the disastrous 
retreat of the Willy Merkl Expedition in 1934. It appeared that, 
having come to the end of his strength, he had belayed himself 
in the hope of being rescued later. His kindly features had been 
miraculously preserved during his four years' exposure. It was a 
sad and gruesome discovery. The porters were sent back 
immediately. Luft and Zuck gently untied the dead man and 
brought the body down to the glacier. When it was lowered into 
a crevasse, a cloud of ice dust rose up. The work of the day was 
over and the climbers returned in silence to the camp. 

Bauer's new route was found to be feasible. Instead of having 
to brave the storm on the exposed flanks of Rakhiot Peak 
above, the party was able to move in the shelter of the Peak. 
The traverse to the northern rock spur was secured for the 
porters by fixing wooden poles and ropes. As they drew nearer 
to the most critical spot around the rock spur the ice became 
dangerously brittle. Rebitsch slipped and checked his fall only 
by a desperate effort. His companion Ruths would never have 
been able to hold him on the steep slope which dropped 
thousands of feet down to Camp III on the lower part of the 

When the whole party set foot on the East Arete and 
approached the slender crag of the Moor's Head, Bauer 
suddenly caught sight of something strange in the shelter of the 
rock. He reported: "Startled, I stood still. What I saw could 
only be the feet of dead men. My porter was thirty yards 
behind me on the rope, and immediately behind him was Zuck 
with a second porter. Was I to call the others to help me or keep 
them from the sight? I hesitated only for a moment; then I sent 
Zuck back with the porters with orders to pitch the camp at the 
beginning of the East ArSte. No one was to come here except 
Luft and Bechtold. 

"Soon afterwards the three of us stood before the two bodies 


Nanga Parbat 

and even before we had freed them from the snow we knew that 
Merkl, the friend of Bechtold's youth, lay before us. We had 
no time to pause and think. The two bodies were perfectly 
preserved Willy Merkl and the porter Gay-Lay, the servant 
who had remained faithful to his master to the last and even in 
death had not forsaken him. Of the wealth of equipment they 
had carried up to the Silver Saddle they had saved nothing but 
a blanket and a piece of foam-rubber."* 

They had neither rucksack, nor ropes. Everything pointed 
to the fact that Merkl had died before Gay-Lay. In Merkl's 
breast pocket they found that moving letter, already quoted, 
which Welzenbach and Merkl had written at Camp VII on 
12th July. 

Until this moment no one had realized that Merkl had 
nearly reached Camp VI at the foot of Rakhiot Peak. His 
comrades had believed that he had died in the ice cave in the 
dip of the Arete, three to four hundred yards before the Moor's 
Head. Evidently, by a superhuman effort, he and Gay-Lay had 
dragged themselves up the incline and clinging fast to the rock 
had sought shelter from the gale on the north-east side of the 
Moor's Head. Overcome by cold and weakness they had fallen 
asleep, never to wake again. 

Bauer continues his poignant account: "We buried them both 
as well as we could and returned to our porters. This unexpected 
encounter with the dead had made a deep impression on us all, 
in spite of the austerity of purpose with which we had armed 
ourselves for the assault on Nanga Parbat. We looked anxiously 
at our porters, wondering if they would hold out, and though 
we had prevented them from seeing the dead, I knew that 
instinct is too powerful with these children of nature for them 
not to sense so strange a happening. In Darjeeling they had 
been scared by gruesome tales, and all our care could not 
prevent the consequences. In all the days that followed, we had, 
above Camp IV, only one porter left who was capable of work."* 

Through the failure of the porters, which grimly recalled 
the trouble which paralysed the first German-American 
Expedition of 1932, the climbers' efforts to gain the Silver 

* Himalayan Journal, Vol. XL 


The German Expedition of 1938 

Saddle and with it the entrance to the summit massif were 
crippled from the start. The weather continued bad. Snow 
storms repelled two advances towards the Schaumrolle on the 
further side of the East Arete. On 25th July Schmaderer and 
Luft made the last attempt. No porter was available, so 
Rebitsch and Ruths followed with the loads. Again it snowed, 
and before they reached the Schaumrolle a thunderstorm broke, 
a most unusual phenomenon at that altitude. The effects of the 
lightning were most disconcerting. Luft suddenly felt a heavy 
blow on the back of his head and Schmaderer felt something 
like a lighted cigarette passing across his eye-balls. They had to 
beat a hasty retreat towards Camp VI. 

The next day the weather looked a little more promising, but 
the climbers saw a red parachute spread out in the valley below, 
the pre-arranged signal that they should descend at once. The 
weather cleared a little towards the end of July and a small 
party of climbers and porters set out at once for the high camps. 
But enormous masses of snow and recurrent snow storms drove 
them back. At the beginning of August, Bauer had to acknow- 
ledge defeat. 

After all the desperate hard work and terrible loss of life in 
the years between, the expedition of 1938 had not got much 
further than that of 1932, and this in spite of the fact that it had 
great resources of knowledge and experience to draw upon, 
was better equipped than any of its predecessors and was led 
by Germany's greatest Himalayan expert. All these great 
advantages could not offset the effects of porter trouble and 
persistent bad weather. But Bauer's sound leadership had 
ensured that this time the team would return intact. After all 
the tragedy of the preceding years this in itself was a source of 



The Reconnaissance of 1939 

BAUER SEEMS to have recognized that the Rakhiot route was 
excessively long. Because of the unreliable weather of the region, 
the attenuated supply lines were in constant danger of being 
disrupted and the high camps cut off as in 1934. So Bauer 
decided to seek a shorter route. Once more the Diamir West 
Face came up for consideration. The very steepness of this 
route which had for so long acted as a deterrent, now com- 
mended itself as offering the shortest possible ascent. 

Bauer lost no time. The clouds of war were already gathering 
when, in the following year, 1939, he entrusted a small crack 
team of climbers with the task of reconnoitring the famous 
Mummery Route and other alternative routes up the Diamir 
Face. The team was lead by Peter Aufschnaiter who had been 
with Bauer on both the 1929 and 1931 Kangchenjunga expedi- 
tions and was still a climber of the highest distinction. He was 
accompanied by three brilliant young men : Hans Lobenhoffer, 
Ludwig Chicken and Heinrich Harrer, who later won inter- 
national fame through his exploits in Tibet. Again no 
experienced Sherpas were forthcoming and the climbers had 
to make do with what porters they could get. 

The party approached the mountain along the new route 
across the Babusar Pass, used in the previous year, which led 
them directly to the western flank. They built a stone hut in the 
local style on the northern bank of the Diamir glacier as their 
headquarters. From there it was only three miles to the summit 
compared with nine miles from the former Camp I in the 
Rakhiot valley. 


The Reconnaissance of 1939 

The climbers first went up the opposite side of the valley 
towards Ganalo Ridge to gain a fuller view of the immense 
wall of rock and ice which they were to tackle. Aufschnaiter 
considered three possibilities. The first was the Mummery 
Route in the direct line of the summit along the three rock ribs 
dividing the Diamir Ice-fall. The second possible route followed 
the Diama glacier to the Diama gaps and gained the north- 
north-west ridge leading on to the North Summit. This would 
have meant traversing the upper reaches of the Diama glacier, 
deeply embedded between the Nanga Parbat north face and the 
south face of Ganalo Peak, where avalanches continually fell 
from both sides. 

The third possibility was one which Mummery had never 
considered. This route kept to the left of the Diamir Ice-fall on 
a more compact series of rock ribs pointing to the North 
Summit. From the vantage point of Ganalo Ridge, the gigantic 
wall of Nanga Parbat looked sheer and smooth, its rocky ribs 
standing out only in slight relief from the near-vertical plane of 
the enormous face. Those parts which were free of glaciation 
consisted of shallow gullies and steep neve slopes alternating 
monotonously. The view was austere and forbidding. 

On 13th June the youngsters Chicken and Lobenhoffer 
followed Mummery's ascent route along the three ribs of the 
Diamir Ice-fall. It was then that they found on the historical 
camp site on top of the second rib that small log of wood which 
had lain there undisturbed for half a century. They returned the 
same day to their camp at the foot of the ice-fall. They did not 
like the route. The upper glacier below the summit broke off 
abruptly above the ribs and they had the awe-inspiring experi- 
ence of seeing a gigantic avalanche sweep the entire amphitheatre 
of the Diamir Ice-fall, taking in its stride the second rib and the 
prospective camp site. This was emphatically not a route over 
which a responsible leader could take relays of climbers and 
porters. It had to be abandoned for good. 

Only the third possibility was left. The approach to the foot 
of this route took the party below several hanging glaciers whose 
snouts protruded threateningly from their gullies. Camp II had 
to be established in these uncomfortable surroundings. Camp 


Nanga Parbat 

III in the lower reaches of the Diama glacier was pleasant in 
comparison; it lay 18,000 feet high opposite the "central rib" 
in the rock and snow slopes dropping from the North Summit. 
In the middle of June Aufschnaiter and Harrer started off. They 
worked up through a system of couloirs to a broad steep snow 
slope, the lower part of which consisted of hard frozen snow; 
the upper part was bare ice. From the top of this slope they 
crossed the rock rib to the right. Here the stone was extremely 
brittle and broke at the slightest touch; stones hailed con- 
tinuously from above. The Bhutia porters complained bitterly 
about the difficulty and danger. The party had to return. 

The rib ends below an ice-wall which has to be negotiated 
until a platform or "pulpit" is reached. Once arrived there the 
main difficulties of the route are overcome and snow slopes 
lead towards the North Summit and the Bazhin Gap where the 
route converges with the Mummery Route and that coming 
from the Rakhiot valley across the Silver Plateau taken by 
Hermann Buhl. 

Aufschnaiter and Harrer on their first assault pushed up 
only to a height of about 20,000 feet without pursuing the 
central rib to the foot of the ice-wall. Aufschnaiter, however, 
felt convinced that the route was practicable. 

Returning to their stone hut some time later they found 
their food and fuel depots empty; in their absence they had been 
plundered by the notorious Chilas tribesmen. Conditions on 
the mountain had deteriorated. The ice was mostly bare of 
snow and the danger of falling stones had increased. In mid- 
July, one month after the first attempt by Harrer and Auf- 
schnaiter, Camps I, II and III were again established. The porters 
refused to proceed any further, and one can hardly blame them. 
Aufschnaiter and Chicken also returned and only the indomit- 
able Harrer and Lobenhoffer continued the ascent. Harrer was 
reminded of the worst parts in the Eiger North Wall, Loben- 
hoffer of those of the Brenva flank of Mont Blanc. They made 
their way up over sheer ice and treacherous rock in ten hours 
of exacting climbing and at last reached the very top of the 
central rib below the "pulpit" of the ice-wall at about 21,000 
feet. They pitched their small tent while stones kept whistling 


The Reconnaissance of 1939 

over their heads. A month before stone falls had occurred 
mainly in the afternoons; now they were happening indis- 
criminately. The climbers descended the next day. 

In spite of the extreme technical difficulty Aufschnaiter 
concluded that the route would be possible in early summer 
before the danger of stone falls had grown too great. As it 
seemed unlikely that any porters could be persuaded to venture 
on this route, a team of at least seven climbers would be 
necessary to support an assault. 

The Himalaya Foundation was informed accordingly and 
in due course a letter arrived conveying the decision that in the 
following year (1940) a full-scale expedition would be launched 
up the short Diamir route. 

On 23rd July Aufschnaiter and Chicken made a first ascent 
of the western summit of Ganalo Peak (22,370 feet) soaring 
above the Indus gorge 18,000 feet below. Chicken said that it 
offered the most imposing view he had ever had. To the south 
he could overlook both the Diamir Face and the Rakhiot 
glacier with Nanga Parbat and her eastern satellites towering 
above the vast amphitheatre of the Rakhiot glacier and its 
tributaries. The narrow, deeply incised Diamir valley to the 
right of the north-north-west ridge compared strangely with the 
broad expanse of the Rakhiot glacier to its left. In the Diamir 
valley one felt imprisoned in a ravine of ice, hemmed in between 
walls 10,000 to 12,000 feet high. Beside the crushing austerity 
of this valley, the wide open many-tiered Rakhiot glacier 
imparted a feeling of "enthusiastic joy". 

September 1939 was now at hand and on reaching Karachi 
the climbers were interned. Harrer managed to escape into 
Tibet where he was to become the friend and tutor of the young 
Dalai Lama. Schmaderer, who had been climbing that year in 
Sikkim, was, on a similar bid for freedom, killed by Hima- 
layan robbers. 

Dreams of Nanga Parbat were lost in the chaos of the Second 
World War. 



The Winter Escapade 
of 1950 

NANGA PARBAT was still to snatch two more human lives. Three 
young Englishmen, Grace, Thornley and Marsh, brought 
together while soldiering in India, decided on demobilization to 
return there to explore the barren territory in the northern parts 
of the Karakoram, which are visited only by primitive nomads 
and belong to the least known regions of the world. But official 
permission to visit the region was suddenly withdrawn for fear 
of political incidents. The three enterprising men, thwarted in 
their romantic project, resolved instead to go to Nanga Parbat 
which at that late time of the year it was November 1950 
had never been visited by climbers. Their tent, equipment and 
clothing were designed to stand the severe conditions of a 
winter in the Karakoram and could serve them just as well on 
the glaciers of Nanga Parbat. Their official purpose was to 
explore winter temperatures and snow and avalanche conditions 
on the upper glaciers, but there is little doubt that the scientific 
aims were subordinate to a sheer love of adventure. 

On llth November they set up their Base Camp at 12,500 
feet. The Sherpa porters, the famous Tensing among them, 
remembering relatives who had died on this mountain of evil 
name, refused to carry beyond Camp I. The young men decided 
to push on on their own. Setting up their tents on the higher 
glacier they spent the evenings reciting Shakespeare and making 
music to the accompaniment of the howling gales outside. But 
this exhilaration of the spirit could not prevail against the 

[90] ' 

The Winter Escapade of 1950 

overwhelming forces of nature. Marsh contracted frost-bite and 
had to descend to Base Camp. On 1st December he saw his 
comrades move up the glacier from their last camp at 18,000 
feet; he saw them stop and pitch their tent. But though the next 
three days remained fine, he saw no further sign of movement. 
Then a blizzard obscured the view. When the sky cleared again 
the tent had been swept away, probably carried down by an 
avalanche. An aerial photograph published at the time marks 
the scene of their disappearance far to the right of the normal 
Rakhiot route, nearer to the enormous amphitheatre of the 
Mulde which even in summer receives all the avalanches falling 
from the East Arete and the hanging glaciers of the Silver 

Marsh at once set out to find his friends. The Sherpas lived 
up to their great tradition by accompanying him without a 
moment's hesitation. In a temperature of 40 C below zero 
they progressed at a rate of only 150 feet an hour and finally 
reached Camp I. Continuing at this rate it would have taken 
them a week to reach the spot where Grace and Thornley had 
last been seen. By that time they would have succumbed to frost- 
bite and there would have been no hope of return. In the light 
of previous experience it is obvious that the two young men 
would have been lost even without the intervention of sudden 
disaster. They had put themselves beyond the reach of outside 
help. Marsh mobilized the help of the Pakistani government and 
was given the opportunity of scouting the region from an aero- 
plane. But no trace was visible on the vast glacier which had 
devoured so many lives and this time had been offered such easy 
prey. The death roll of Nanga Parbat now stood at fourteen 
climbers and seventeen porters. 



Erwin Schneider s 
Summing Up 

IN PROFESSOR DYRENFURTH's distinguished book on the Hima- 
laya, Zum Dritten Pol, Erwin Schneider who in 1934 climbed 
with Peter Aschenbrenner to within 900 feet of the summit of 
Nanga Parbat and with him survived the storm which trapped 
Merkl, Wieland, Welzenbach and their Sherpas, says: "In 1895 
Mummery thought that victory was at hand and that he could 
have reached the summit on the following day. We know now 
that he had not the slightest chance of doing so notwithstanding 
his prowess and his speed. One climber assisted by only two 
porters is no match for a 26,000 foot peak. 

"In 1932 Merkl found the admittedly long but technically 
easiest route from the Rakhiot valley. The failure of his 
expedition to reach the summit can be attributed to a variety 
of causes. First, none of the climbers had Himalayan experience. 
Secondly, there was constant trouble with the porters and 
experience has suggested that the local Baltis and Hunzas are 
unsuited to high altitude work. Finally, and this was the deciding 
factor, the ascent was begun much too late in the year, i.e., on 
30th June, for the monsoon reaches the western Himalaya 
usually by the first week in July. The expedition of 1932 was 
fortunate in that the monsoon that year did not reach Nanga 
Parbat until 18th July and until then exceptionally favourable 
conditions had obtained. The attempts made after 18th July and 
which dragged on to the end of August were sheer waste of 
time and effort. 


Erwin Schneider's Summing Up 

"In 1934 the auguries were good. The weather was tolerable 
and by 7th June the climbers were already installed in Camp IV. 
On 8th June Drexel died in Camp II. This set the expedition 
back by seventeen days and it was not until 25th June that 
Camp IV was again occupied. Even then the pace was not 
quickened and there was no evidence of a feeling of urgency. 
It was not until 4th July that the actual assault on the summit 
started from Camp V. Then, too many of the climbers wanted 
to continue summit- wards at the same time; first there were 
seven in the assault party, then six, and from Camp VII onwards 
there were still five. This involved far too heavy an expenditure 
of transport and equipment. It would have been more reasonable 
to advance from Camp VI in groups of two and if this had been 
done the summit might still have been reached. Even from 
Camp VI onwards far too much time was lost unnecessarily. 
The mountain was underestimated with a casualness bordering 
on irresponsibility, until in the end, on the eve of imminent 
victory, the storm put an end to every possibility of success. 

"It is not possible to explain in a fully satisfactory manner 
why Merkl, Welzenbach and Wieland did not keep up with the 
advance group (Aschenbrenner and Schneider) and broke down 
after only two hours, still above Camp VII. It is most probably 
attributable to the fact that without an artificial supply of 
oxygen it is not possible to stay above 24,500 feet for more than 
a short time without losing efficiency. At the same time it is 
known that the use of oxygen equipment has certain other 
drawbacks. Given unfavourable weather conditions deteriora- 
tion at high altitudes proceeds with great rapidity and all 
strength evaporates. While resting one feels strong and well, 
but at the smallest effort every movement has to be forced on 
the body and every step becomes an effort of will. 

"In 1937 the climbers made an early start and achieved 
Camp IV in spite of adverse weather conditions. But they 
pitched this camp, which should have been the safest of them 
all, in the wrong spot. It was particularly tragic that they should 
have made this mistake as there was an area of several square 
miles in which they could have chosen a perfectly safe site. In 
view of the impossibility of finding a camping site similarly 


Nanga Parbat 

safe from avalanches between Camps I and IV they may have 
underestimated the sinister significance of the inconspicuous 
ice-fall on the Rakhiot flank which caused the disaster. 

"In 1938 after the terrible toll of the years 1934 and 1937 
Bauer's chief concern was to return without loss of life. He did 
not want to, nor could he, take any risks. Moreover, his 
expedition was pursued by ill-luck, especially as regards weather. 
Admittedly the assault on the summit started far too late, at a 
time indeed when the first monsoon winds had already swept 
over the mountains. And once the monsoon had begun there 
was no longer any prospect of success, having regard to Bauer's 
quite understandably cautious method of attack. 

"The expedition of 1939 was undertaken purely for recon- 
naissance purposes and that of 1950 can be regarded only as 
the eccentric adventure of inexperienced amateurs. At best one 
can admire their courage." 



Official Report of the Willy Merkl Memorial 
Expedition, 1953, by Karl Herrligkoffer * 


Prelude to Action 
Munich to Gilgit 

The Approach 
The First Assault 

The Turning Point 


The Summit 

The Return 

The Aftermath 

*With additional material from the dispatches 
from the Mountain (Berichte I- VII) and other 
sources (See bibliographical note p. 248). 


Prelude to Action 

i WAS JUST seventeen when, in July 1934, Willy Merkl who was 
my step-brother, met his death on Nanga Parbat. I had at the 
time no conception of what it must have meant to battle against 
death, famished and frozen, for ten whole days and nights on 
end and then, finally, to have to succumb. I was saddened, 
naturally, for I had lost my big brother, my hero, but it was not 
until 1937 when, at one blow, seven more of my countrymen, all 
renowned climbers, together with their faithful Sherpas, lost 
their lives on Nanga Parbat, that I felt the full impact of the 
tragedy associated with the mountain. 

I determined, there and then, that come what may, I would 
myself organize a new German Himalayan expedition, whose 
task it would be to set the seal of victory upon the heroic efforts 
of our dead comrades, to fulfil, in fact, a sacred trust. 

The idea grew and took shape. Over a period of years I 
studied the entire literature on the Himalaya, concentrating of 
course on Nanga Parbat, and wrote meanwhile a book on Willy 
Merkl as mountaineer, dedicated to his memory. Then came the 
Second World War and for many years all prospect of organiz- 
ing a new German expedition to Nanga Parbat perforce receded. 
It was indeed not until five years after the cessation of hostilities 
that German thoughts turned once more to the Himalayas. 
Rudolf Peters, who had made the first ascent of the south-east 
wall of the Schiisselkar and the north face of the Grandes 
Jorasses, took the initiative. He gained the support of the 
German Alpine Club but was frustrated in other directions. At 
this time I became a member of the German Himalaya Society 


Nanga Parbat 

but could find no support for my project. And so, in autumn 
1951, that is eighteen months before the start of our expedition, 
I had to begin fighting for my idea and embark upon a campaign 
in its support which lasted literally till the hour of our departure 
on 17th April, 1953. I was not disposed to be deterred 
by these initial difficulties and went straight ahead with my 

My first step was the formation of the Council for the German 
Himalayan Expedition 1953. Members of the Medical Faculty 
of the University of Munich, among them Professor Frey and 
Rector of the University, Professor Schmaus, by agreeing so 
readily to sit on the Council, encouraged me to approach other 
eminent personalities. Prominent men in the political and 
economic life of Bavaria also consented to accept membership, 
and the committee of the Munich branch of the German Alpine 
Club joined us as a body. I was fortunate in persuading Herr 
Thomas Wimmer, Chief Burgomaster of Munich, to accept 
the honorary patronage and received from him the staunchest 
possible support. Herr Wimmer took it upon himself to try 
again and again to win over the National Committee of the 
German Alpine Club but without success. A scheme for a 
"working affiliation", brought into being after much effort, 
was again dissolved. We had further to contend with an 
unfortunate press campaign which seriously jeopardized the 
launching of the expedition. However, by means of a detailed 
submission of all relevant facts, I secured the good will of the 
Home Office and Foreign Office in Bonn and, fortified by the 
unfailing loyalty of the honorary patron of the expedition, I 
went ahead with quiet confidence. 

An expedition to the Himalaya costs a great deal of money. 
Equipment, transport and insurance can account for a sum 
well in excess of 20,000. Almost all the material requirements 
for our expedition were covered by the generosity of German 
industrial and commercial undertakings, but Austrian, Spanish 
and Swedish firms also contributed. In this way the total 
expenditure was reduced to half of the original estimate. Even 
so, the balance still required for ship and air travel and in 
particular for porters' wages represented a formidable sum, and 


Prelude to Action 

I am happy to be able to say that half of this amount was met by 
small contributions from supporters of our plan in Germany. 
Subscriptions from members of the Munich Branch of the 
German Alpine Club produced a remarkable result but apart 
from that one branch and the Austrian Alpine Club, no other 
organization or official body shared in the financial backing of 
the first post-war German expedition to the Himalaya, and the 
considerable balance still required was met by contracts covering 
literary, photographic and film rights, on account of which 
generous advance payments were made. 

In planning the selection of the team the original idea was 
to include, apart from the climbers, a group of scientists. Dr. 
Krasser, a geologist of Bregenz, and Dr. Reuss, a geodetist of 
Lindau, had already been induced to take part in the expedition 
when it became clear that the inclusion of this scientific con- 
tingent would be financially impossible. For it must be recorded 
that scientific bodies with funds at their disposal proved utterly 
unresponsive to our appeal. 

Our first step in building up the climbing team was to approach 
Peter Aschenbrenner, alpine guide of Kufstein, already known 
for his exploits on Nanga Parbat and as friend and comrade of 
my brother Willy Merkl. He was appointed leader of the 
climbing team. He had been with the Nanga Parbat expeditions 
of 1932 and 1934 and, in the company of Erwin Schneider, had 
climbed to within 900 feet of the summit. 

The Munich Branch of the German Alpine Club recom- 
mended three members of their junior section Herbert Eschner, 
29, neophilologist; Hermann Kollensperger, 27, mechanic; and 
Otto Kempter, a 27-year-old businessman, who became our 
financial expert and willingly assumed the thankless task of 
Camp Treasurer. All three were Munich men and had impressive 
mountaineering records. Unfortunately Herbert Eschner, having 
done valuable spadework for the expedition, had to drop out at 
the last moment. He had, among other things, made himself 
responsible for negotiations in Karachi and Rawalpindi no 
easy task and for engaging the Sherpa porters in Darjeeling, 
but leave of absence from his official duties was withheld until 
the very eve of our departure. 


Nanga Parbat 

We further agreed on the participation of Dr. Walter Frauen- 
berger, a 45-year-old magistrate from St. Johann in Pongau, 
Austria; he had an extraordinarily wide experience of alpine 
work and had in 1938 made first ascents of three 20,000 ft. 
Himalayan peaks. At Base Camp he was elected deputy leader 
of the expedition. 

At the request of the Austrian Alpine Club the 29-year-old 
Innsbruck climber, Hermann Buhl, was also included. He had 
won fame as a solo-climber and could produce a climbing 
record which could only be described as fantastic. His inclusion 
in the team was objected to by some of his Tyrolese colleagues, 
but his unquestionably unique position among all German and 
Austrian climbers fully justified the decision to retain him. 

Albert Bitterling, a mountain guide from Berchtesgaden, had 
considerable experience in the Western Alps and had had 
valuable meteorological training; he was another in his early 
forties. He joined the team with Kuno Rainer, a 38-year-old 
foreman bricklayer and mountain guide of Innsbruck. Rainer 
had partnered Buhl on the Eiger North Wall, the North Wall 
of the Western "Zinne" (Dolomites), the Aiguilles de Chamonix 
and the Marmolata South- West Wall, of which they made the 
first winter ascent. The two of them were known as the most 
formidable climbing combination in the Eastern Alps. Rainer 
himself was a modest, straightforward type of man and proved 
an exemplary comrade on the mountain. 

Hans Ertl^ whose reputation as climber and mountain photo- 
grapher is international, joined the team as camera-man. Also 
in his middle forties he could, like Frauenberger, claim Himal- 
ayan experience; he had also climbed in the Andes and in 

Finally, another Munich man, my companion on many 
mountain trips, Fritz Aumann, was appointed Camp Com- 
mandant and made responsible for the successful working of 
our radio apparatus. He was later relieved by Rudolf Rott, an 
unexpected addition to our company, and alone negotiated the 
Rakhiot Ice-wall to the Moor's Head (23,000 feet). 

For my part, having organized the expedition, I was to 
accompany it as physician. 


Prelude to Action 

This then was our team when we left Munich on 17th April, 

Karl Herrligkoffer, organizer and expedition doctor 

Peter Aschenbrenner, leader 

Walter Frauenberger, deputy leader 

Fritz Aumann, camp commandant and engineer 

Hans Ertl, photographer 

Albert Bitterling, meteorologist 

Otto Kempter, treasurer 

Kuno Rainer 

Hermann Kollensperger 

Hermann Buhl 



Munich to Gilgit 

THE DEPARTURE of the expedition was scheduled for noon on 
17th April, 1953, from Munich Main Station, where we had a 
rousing send-off. There had been a host of things to attend to at 
the last moment and when eventually seven of us (Aumann, Ertl, 
Kollensperger, Kempter, Bitterling, Buhl and I) piled into the 
Alpine Express only one minute before departure time, we 
could hardly believe that we were at last on our way to Nanga 
Parbat. Only at noon on the previous day had we had word from 
the Pakistan Legation at Godesberg that our visas had been 
granted. This was entirely due to the good offices of our friend 
Dr. Ullrich who had finally handed us the documents in person. 
The passports had been stamped with the necessary transit visas 
for Austria and Italy just half an hour before we left Munich 
and then, and only then, was the way clear for the departure of 
the Willy Merkl Memorial Expedition. 

But now all the frustrations and difficulties of the past month 
were behind us and we thought with gratitude of the Chief 
Burgomaster of Munich, Herr Thomas Wimmer, of the Munich 
Branch of the German Alpine Club, of their president, L. 
Aschenbrenner and of Herr O. Raab, Legal Adviser to the 
German Alpine Club, all of whom had done so much to make 
this day possible for us. Suspense was at an end and we were all 
in a great state of exhilaration. 

Time flew by and soon we were stopping at Kufstein. Here 
Peter Aschenbrenner was to join us and travel with us as far 
as Innsbruck. (He was to follow us to Pakistan by 'plane two 
or three weeks later.) We stood on the platform with him and his 


Munich to Gilgit 

friends who drank to our success in Tyrolese red wine. Then on 
our way again, up the valley of the Inn. At Innsbruck we were 
greeted by a crowd of friends almost as great as that which had 
marked our departure from Munich. Our friends of the Austrian 
Alpine Club were there, including Erwin Schneider, veteran of 
the 1934 Nanga Parbat expedition, his typical climber's face 
deeply tanned, who said as he shook my hand, "You'll make it". 
I could imagine no better send-off than this, from the doyen of 
Austrian mountaineers. 

Peter Aschenbrenner left us here and Walter Frauenberger 
and Kuno Rainer joined us to make up the full complement. 
We were now headed for the Brenner Pass and got through the 
Austrian-Italian customs without a hitch. On through orchards 
in blossom, until in the evening sun the snowy peaks of the 
Vajolet Towers of the Dolomites sent their last greetings towards 
us down the Eisack valley. 

We reached Genoa at 4 a.m. on the 18th and were met there 
by a pilot of the Lloyd-Triestino Navigation Company. He had 
with him some press photographers who pursued us the whole 
day like bloodhounds. At noon we boarded the shining new 
Lloyd-Triestino 18,000 ton motor vessel Victoria. The name 
seemed a happy omen and we welcomed the prospect of our ten 
days at sea. While the porters were stowing away our luggage 
we looked over our sleeping quarters. Walter Frauenberger and 
I shared one stateroom which was connected by a bathroom 
with the cabin shared by Aumann, Bitterling and Ertl. The 
others (Buhl, Kempter, K611ensperger and Rainer) were 
accommodated in a four-berth cabin further along the deck. 
We were all in excellent spirits and feeling absurdly happy as 
we unpacked. 

Our baggage had not yet arrived so that the last hours before 
sailing were not without anxiety. But at last my name was 
called and I could check the incoming trunks, crates and bags 
with an easy mind. Officers of the Italian Alpine Club and with 
them Countess del'Oro-Previdale, patroness of Italian moun- 
taineering, came aboard to offer us their good wishes. Toasts to 
our success alternated with requests for autographs. When it was 
time for our Italian friends to leave ship the Countess on 


Nanga Parbat 

impulse planted a motherly kiss on the cheek of her favourite, 
Hermann Buhl. 

At 2.14 p.m. the Victoria slipped her cables and we were off 
on our voyage through the Mediterranean. After all the frenzied 
activity of the past few weeks, most of us were content to spend 
these first leisurely hours of our voyage resting in the warm 
breeze and thinking of our far-away objective, to which every 
hour now was bringing us closer. 

A few Italian reporters had followed us on board and they 
used the time between Genoa and Naples to collect information 
about the expedition. A broadcast for Naples was prepared at 
the same time. After discharging our various obligations to the 
press and radio, which for a change could be done in leisurely 
fashion over drinks in the ship's lounge, we took another stroll 
on deck before turning in. 

On Saturday, 19th April, we put in at Naples and grasped the 
opportunity to take a brief look at Pompeii. In the afternoon 
Hans Ertl and Fritz Aumann visited the dock area with their 
cine cameras unaware that this was a prohibited military zone. 
They spent a whole hour under arrest before the matter was 
straightened out. At 9.30 in the evening we sailed on south- 
eastwards towards the Suez Canal. 

Life on board offered many diversions delectable meals, 
physical exercise, lessons in English and Urdu and we were 
soon on excellent terms with the head waiter. He was an Italian 
who had lived some time in Vienna and therefore spoke our 
language and understood our tastes. He told me that a month 
previously the Swiss Dhaulagiri Expedition had travelled out to 
India on this same ship. 

On the night of 22nd April we left Port Said after a brief time 
ashore and began to make our way slowly through the Suez 
Canal. Traffic here was congested and we had to ride at anchor 
until morning to allow passage to shipping approaching from 
the south. Meanwhile we watched the British and Egyptian 
tankers and gaily coloured sailing boats manned by fellaheen 
sailing across the mouth of the canal. Then at last our proud 
Victoria took the lead and, followed by a big American liner 
and a long procession of other shipping, continued on her way. 






The site of the interim Base Camp 

in the ' Fairy Meadow ' 






Munich to Gilgit 

To the west the barren landscape was broken by an occasional 
oasis and extensive British military encampments and airfields, 
in the distance the jagged outline of a mountain range, while to 
the east we could see only infinite unrelieved desert. Meanwhile 
the temperature was rising appreciably with humidity in the 
region of 96 %, until we came to the hottest part of our voyage, 
the crossing of the Red Sea. 

And so to Friday, 24th April. There was a dance on board 
but the night was as humid as the day and it was too hot for me 
to do more than watch. I made the round of the ship by moon- 
light and pondered that by the time the moon was again waxing 
we should be at Base Camp on Nanga Parbat. 

The Victoria, with numerous little flying fish crowding round 
her bows, was now making her way to the outlet of the Red 
Sea and in the early afternoon of 26th April we reached Aden, 
where we were able to go ashore and indulge in a shopping spree. 
Everything here was cheaper by a third than in Port Said and 
we were interested to see on sale the most modern German 
cameras still unobtainable at home. We decided also to take a 
look at the periphery of the town Rainer and Kempter 
particularly wanted to climb the rocks on the outskirts but we 
found the native quarters squalid, poverty-stricken and even 

The next morning found us in the Arabian Gulf and riding a 
rough sea. We were now nearing our destination and at 7 a.m. 
on Thursday, 30th April, we arrived at Karachi. The expedition 
was, of course, expected and all personal customs formalities 
and exchange matters were very quickly settled. Dr. Hussain 
of the Pakistan Ministry for Cultural Affairs came aboard to 
extend to us the good wishes of his country, and Dr. Schmidt- 
Horix welcomed us on behalf of the German Ambassador. 
Then followed interviews with the Pakistani and Indian press. 
It was obvious that our statement that we intended to fly the 
Pakistani flag on the summit of Nanga Parbat had made a 
great impression, for on the following day it had headlines in all 
the Karachi newspapers. This was probably because the summit 
of Nanga Parbat lies close to the cease-fire line dividing Kashmir 
into two parts and in territory contested by India and Pakistan. 


Nanga Parbat 

for us a saving of about 1,000 and represented some useful 
spade work for the American expedition which was to set out 
for K2 (Chogori) in a few weeks' time. 

Our shipping agent Mr. Wandres was immediately informed 
and was able to start re-loading at once, while Walter Frauen- 
berger and Kuno Rainer went off to supervise operations. Then 
I accompanied Otto Kempter, our Treasurer, to the State Bank 
of Pakistan where we were to collect an affidavit to enable us 
to cash our draft at Lloyd's Bank. 

On my return to the hotel in the early afternoon I found my 
companions in a great state of excitement. Hans Ertl greeted 
me with the news that the shipping agent had telephoned to say 
that freight charges to Rawalpindi would amount to 6,000 
rupees. The prospect of having to meet freight charges equivalent 
to half the sum saved by customs exemption was far from 
encouraging, so I took a taxi straight away for the station. 
There I found my profusely perspiring comrades with Wandres 
and his men in conclave with the station-master. After a certain 
amount of argument I managed to get the freight charges 
reduced to just over 3,000 rupees on the basis that at least half 
of the consignment could be classified as perishable goods. This 
sum was later, by some surprising calculation, reduced to 
1,660 rupees. 

I now learned that there were still five pieces of baggage held 
up in the customs for want of clearance certificates. These pieces 
had been added by Aumann, Kempter and Buhl after the initial 
shipping formalities had been completed and they had therefore 
not been listed. This meant another visit to the customs officer 
while the others checked and supervised the loading, seeing that 
perishable foodstuffs and photographic materials were placed 
at the bottom of the goods wagon, for on its way north across 
the desert our supplies would be exposed to a murderous heat of 

Loading completed, the party returned to the hotel equipped 
with a few crates of beer and a case of salami, while I stayed 
behind to get the tickets to Rawalpindi. This procedure lasted 
a full two hours as the name of each passenger was written on 
three types of ticket and checked and rechecked. At last my 


Nanga Parbat 

To implant ,the national flag on the highest point of Kashmir 
on ground never before trodden by man could not but fire 
public imagination. 

We took leave of the friends we had made on board and went 
ashore where we had to wait a full two hours while the small 
luggage was examined. Peter Aschenbrenner's gun had to be 
unpacked, was examined closely and obviously caused a great 
deal of comment. But at last we were through and on our way by 
taxi to our hotel. 

My first duty was to call at the German Embassy to present 
myself and to collect our mail. Dr. Schmidt-Horix requested 
that Herr Knips, Counsellor at the Embassy, be allowed to join 
the expedition during his four weeks' leave and this I readily 
agreed to. 

I now had word that the customs authorities were demanding 
duty to the tune of 10,000 rupees. It was quite impossible for the 
expedition to meet an unforeseen expense of this magnitude and 
I decided at once to appeal to the Prime Minister, Mr. Moham- 
med AH. We located him in a modest bungalow and were 
received by a secretary who listened attentively to our story and 
then requested that we make our application in writing. 

That evening we were invited to a reception at the Dutch 
Embassy in honour of Queen Juliana's birthday. Mr. Moham- 
med Ali was to be among the guests, also Dr. Schmidt-Horix. 
As the party got under way I was introduced to many members 
of the Diplomatic Corps, both European and Asiatic, but to my 
great regret the Prime Minister of Pakistan, to whom I was 
hoping to be presented, had left the party after only fifteen 
minutes. However, I was reassured when Dr. Schmidt-Horix 
told me that he had had a word with him about our customs 
difficulties and had asked him for his assistance. 

Among the many callers at our hotel on the following day 
was Rudolf Rott of Augsburg. Although he was without actual 
experience, Rott was a great Nanga Parbat enthusiast and had 
months before in Germany begged to be allowed to join the 
expedition. Having been refused he had hitch-hiked all the way 
to Karachi, where he had fallen seriously ill with a disorder of 
the liver and had been in hospital there for some weeks before 


Munich to Gilgit 

our arrival. I was obliged to make it quite clear to him that I 
was no more in a position to sanction his joining the team in 
Karachi than I had been in Augsburg. Moreover, he was at 
present in no state of health to undergo such prolonged physical 
strain, and I had to inform the German Embassy accordingly. 
This was unfortunate as I knew that they would have liked us to 
take Rott with us to Base Camp as one could not but admire 
the determination of the fellow. 

On Saturday, 2nd May, Bitterling and I called at the Meteoro- 
logical Office to collect information about weather conditions 
on Nanga Parbat, the influence of the monsoon* and the autumn 
gales from the west. The monsoon usually reaches Nanga 
Parbat on 1st July but the western gales do not come until after 
15th September. Everyone agreed that we had chosen a very 
favourable time. For the rest, the maps and surveys shown to 
us were already familiar. We asked if we could have weather 
reports daily at 7.30 a.m. over Radio Rawalpindi and suggested 
the following simple terms : clear, cloudy, overcast, snow, gale, 
monsoon. Thus any member of the expedition, even if he knew 
only very little English, would be able to receive the weather 
reports. We were assured that such a service would be made 
available to us. 

At the Embassy I learned that we could fly from Rawalpindi 
to Gilgit at a cost of 65 rupees per man and 10,000 rupees for 
the baggage. This was a large sum but on the other hand this 
section of the approach would be reduced from ten days to 
one and a half flying hours. Furthermore, our equipment would 
probably suffer in the course of a jeep crossing of the Babusar 
Pass, even assuming that the pass was open at this time of year, 
which was doubtful. 

I then called with Dr. Schmidt-Horix on the Secretary of 
State for Finance and received the cheering news that the Prime 
Minister had given permission for our expedition to pass 
through Pakistan duty free and had stated that this permission 
should apply to any future Himalayan expeditions. This meant 

* According to Prof. Flohn, it is likely that from a strictly scientific viewpoint 
the bad weather spells on Nanga Parbat are not caused by the monsoon, but by 
the influx of polar air. 


Munich to Gilgit 

impatience so got the better of me that I told the man behind the 
counter that in Munich tickets were issued at the rate of about 
500 an hour. He was unimpressed and replied only that we 
weren't in Munich now, we were in Pakistan. I suppose I asked 
for it. 

It was now time to split into groups. The first group, Knips, 
Bitterling and I, would go ahead, travelling this evening at 8.50. 
The second group consisting of the four younger members 
(Buhl, Kempter, Kollensperger, Rainer) would go by the train 
conveying all our baggage, while the rest were to remain behind 
to clear the remainder of the luggage and would then leave 
Karachi on Monday evening at 5.20. 

It was already 8 o'clock when I got back to the hotel after 
the protracted business of getting the tickets and there was just 
time for a drink and a quick change while Fritz helped to stuff 
my personal belongings into my suitcase. At the station 
hundreds of porters in red shirts were squatting about and three 
took charge of our luggage. Each of them balanced two huge 
cases on his head and gripped another piece of luggage in each 
hand, and with remarkable surefootedness ploughed a way 
through the seething station crowds of this Asiatic metropolis. 
People were squatting or lying in the most unlikely places and 
I almost stepped on a sleeping boy before eventually we found 
our names on an air-conditioned compartment. The luggage 
was stowed away, the porters received their baksheesh and soon 
the train was steaming out of the station. 

Sunday, 3rd May, found us speeding over the 700 miles of 
barren country between Karachi and Lahore. The weather was 
magnificent. The further north we got the more steppe-like the 
character of the country; among the isolated shrubs and tall 
trees camels could be seen strutting with dignity, water buffalos 
lay crowded together up to their necks in the mire, and goats, 
vultures, ponies and donkeys enlivened the scene. All the 
natives wore white, or once-white, loin-cloths topped by a 
European-style jacket and brightly coloured turbans, as pro- 
tection against the intense heat of the sun. As soon as one 
stepped from the air-conditioned compartment on to the 
platform one was struck, as it were, by heat from a furnace. 


Nanga Parbat 

The outside temperature was 118F. in the shade, a great 
contrast to the artificially cooled train. But notwithstanding the 
heat, every station platform at which we stopped was swarming 
with natives selling fat juicy melons, or little apples or 

A few hundred miles before Lahore vegetation became more 
abundant and the density of the population increased. Villages 
of flat wattle huts occurred more frequently and became more 
extensive. Here the beneficial results of the British-installed 
irrigation scheme, diverting the waters of the Indus to the barren 
countryside, could be readily observed. Isolated groups of palms 
gave way to more and more fruit trees and eventually to orchards 
extending for miles. The landscape was undulating and here and 
there the heat of the sun had caused great fissures to occur in 
the soil. One could easily imagine how these rifts collected 
water during the rainy season and caused the great floods which 
are typical here at that time of year. 

Each of the air-conditioned train compartments had four 
bunks which could be converted into six seats during the day. 
We shared our compartment with two Muslims and found we 
were able to converse with them quite freely. They were wealthy 
but unostentatious businessmen from Lahore. My vis-^-vis 
performed his religious exercises regularly in the morning, at 
noon and at night. He would spread a towel on his bunk, cover 
his head with a handkerchief knotted at the corners and, with 
his hands raised forward and his forehead resting on his pillow, 
he would kneel and pray. The performance was quite unself- 
conscious and curiously impressive. 

We arrived at the old university town of Lahore in the 
evening feeling relatively fresh. We were greeted there by friends 
of Knips as well as by a few German engineers and their radiant 
young daughters. The press was again in attendance and the 
Pakistan Times requested periodic exclusive reports and photo- 
graphs of our progress on the mountain. 

After a stop of only half an hour we embarked in another 
train and waved good-bye to our friends and compatriots. The 
desert sand now began to penetrate the compartment and we 
were soon covered in dust and quite filthy. Our companion on 


Munich to Gilgit 

this train was an Afghan who spoka German and told us that he 
had been studying dentistry for the past nine months and had 
been in Munich with Professor Kranz at the time of our 
departure. Thus he knew all about the events which had preceded 
the launching of the expedition. We chatted for a while and then 
tried to settle down on our bunks. A linen sleeping-bag was 
provided and this protected us in some degree from the sand. 

At about 3 o'clock in the small hours we arrived in Rawal- 
pindi. Our considerable luggage was stacked on to two rickshas, 
the Punjab horses trotted off into the close, silent night, and 
we were soon at our comfortable bungalow hotel removing the 
grime and sand of our long journey in the luxury of a bath. 

We awoke to a stiflingly hot day. It appeared that we had 
just caught the tail end of a heat wave which had lasted for 
some weeks and we felt quite elated on being told that we had 
chanced upon an exceptional stretch of good weather and that 
the season was extremely favourable for our enterprise. This 
was enough to make the most oppressive heat endurable. Fur- 
thermore, the local people seemed convinced of the success of 
our expedition, on what grounds it was impossible to conjecture. 

After our short sleep Knips and I went to the Office for 
Kashmiri Affairs to get the necessary entry permit for Kashmir. 
At the same time we received the licence for Peter Aschen- 
brenner's triple-barrelled gun and permission to use our ultra- 
short-wave radio set on the mountain. We were joined in our 
conversation with State Secretary Fahim by Colonel Ata Ullah, 
head of the Ministry of Health, a friendly, energetic little man 
with a black goatee beard. He showed me a letter he had had 
from the leader of the American Chogori expedition invoking 
his support. There was much to discuss and Colonel Ullah 
agreed to call on us at our hotel in the evening when he would 
have more time at his disposal. 

In the afternoon we were able to catch up a little on our 
sleep. It was unbearably hot and the atmosphere was oppressive 
and sultry. At about 5 o'clock we were aroused by the violent 
rattling of doors and windows as a sudden sand storm sprang 
up. The awakening was timely. It was almost the hour for dinner. 

Colonel Ullah duly arrived accompanied by our Pakistani 


Nanga Parbat 

helper and friend from the Rawalpindi Broadcasting Company. 
We discussed arrangements for the weather reports and came 
to the conclusion that they might come through best over the 
United Nations transmitter in Rawalpindi. The Colonel was 
good enough to place a lorry and a jeep with local drivers at 
our disposal for the next few days. This meant that we could 
make our purchases in the bazaars we had to procure all food 
supplies for the porters on the approach route and should be 
able, when our railway goods wagon arrived, to move our nine 
tons of baggage to the airport, all with the minimum loss of time. 

We set about buying in our supplies on the following morning 
and found the market a colourful scene. From a main street 
covered inches deep in fine dust there branched off a number of 
small side-alleys many of which were so narrow that two people 
could pass only with difficulty. Both main and side streets were 
flanked by dirty wooden shacks, and in the alley devoted to the 
sale of fats and soap everything was screened against the sun 
in such a manner that one had the feeling of being penned in an 
enclosed corridor, noisome with pungent and rancid odours. 
The merchants were squatting on stools among their wares and, 
contrary to common oriental usage, were not prepared to bar- 
gain. Naturally everyone knew in advance from the press that 
we were Germans on our way to Nanga Parbat. 

The business of shopping was soon completed according to 
our pre-arranged schedule and we hurried off to the station to 
meet our youngsters, Buhl, Kempter, Kollensperger and 
Rainer. The Lahore train had arrived and passengers were 
already leaving the station, among them our friends who were 
in rather poor shape. They had been en route for fifty-nine 
hours (covering a distance of some thousand miles) inside the 
goods wagon coupled on to the passenger train without benefit 
of air-conditioning or indeed any comfort whatsoever. Obviously 
they had suffered much from the heat, dirt and sand. Buhl was 
the worst affected. He had a badly inflamed throat and was in 
need of immediate medical attention. 

However, our vital equipment was safely arrived in Rawal- 
pindi and our young comrades were the first to agree that their 
discomfort had been well worth while, more especially as 


The in the Valley 

The Rakhbt Glacier and Rakhiot Valley with a view of the Valley and 

the of the 

The in the tent, It was here that they the 

that had climbed 

At Talichi, Loads are for Transport up to the Base Camp 

The Camp with the Great Chongra in the 

A view of the north-cast of Parbat as seen the 

interim Camp 




Munich to Gilgit 

Rainer had discovered on the way that the van was in process 
of being uncoupled and shunted into a goods yard. If he had 
not been there to intervene our baggage might well have been 
delayed by several days which would have meant additional 
expense and loss of valuable time. 

While Albert Bitterling stayed behind in the blazing heat 
of the station to keep an eye on the goods van, the newly 
arrived travellers went off to the hotel to clean up and rest. 
Once installed in the bath-tub Kuno Rainer seemed reluctant 
to be parted from it. Knips meanwhile arranged for the baggage 
to be driven to the airport and I gave Buhl an injection of 

In the evening we were guests at the home of Colonel Ullah 
which we were surprised to find furnished in the best European 
style. It was a distinguished gathering and the Colonel's three 
young sons waited charmingly on the guests. 

The following day we were to fly to Gilgit in four batches. 
Two 'plane-loads were to take off at 5 a.m. in the morning, the 
other two following between 9 and 10 o'clock. The Polish pilots 
were anxious to get away early as the weather was more reliable 
in the mornings. It was Wednesday, 26th May, a great day for 
us. At 3 o'clock Knips, Kempter, Kollensperger and Rainer 
were called to go with the first 'planes. I was quite unable to 
sleep on after this and kept listening for the arrival of a ricksha 
conveying the third group who were to bring the remaining 
luggage from Karachi. I dozed on and off, thinking of the flight 
to Gilgit, wondering what our first glimpse of Nanga Parbat 
would be like, trying to work out which flank would be visible. 
I was called back to reality by the arrival in my room of the last 

It was 5 o'clock and after a few words of welcome we break- 
fasted and repacked. Our newly arrived comrades were delighted 
to hear that at this hour already two 'planes with four comrades 
and the major part of our baggage were about to take off for 
Gilgit and that we were to follow in a few hours. From this 
point only our climbing equipment would go with us, the rest 
of our stuff remaining in the trunks to be stored away until our 


Nanga Parbat 

Just before 8 o'clock the cars so kindly loaned by Colonel 
Ullah were already at our disposal and we went to take leave 
of our ambassador who was for the moment staying at our hotel 
on account of the illness of his wife. Only one thing was dis- 
quieting: where were our Sherpas? Some months before our 
departure from Munich a team of five Sherpa porters was 
engaged in Darjeeling. The Sirdar was to be "Tiger" Pasang 
Dawa Lama, famous for his exploits with Fritz Wiessner on K2 
in 1939 and his ascent with F. Spencer Chapman of Chomolhari 
(24,000 feet) in 1937. We had made arrangements that they 
should meet us here. I despatched a number of telegrams in an 
effort to trace their whereabouts and find some explanation for 
their non-arrival and left instructions should they come after 
we had gone. Then we were ready to leave Rawalpindi. 

The air route from Rawalpindi to Gilgit is said to be the most 
spectacular and hazardous in the world. It is not much advertised 
owing to its great strategic importance. While the eastern half 
of Pakistan in Bengal is separated from the mother country by a 
thousand miles of Indian territory, its north-western corner, the 
Gilgit Agency, would be cut off for three-quarters of the year 
by snow on the Babusar Pass but for this boldly improvised air 
route. Wild atmospheric disturbances are liable to develop at 
any moment above the tremendous gorges of the Himalayan 
valleys but there are only one or two meteorological stations 
along the whole route. The freighters used as air liners are none 
too efficient, their ceiling is comparatively low, and after 
crossing several high ridges the aircraft must twist and turn 
within the narrow corridor formed by the gigantic Indus gorge. 

Arrived at the Rawalpindi airport we saw two Dakotas touch 
down which meant that the first load had been safely ferried to 
Gilgit. Our luggage was taken aboard, we paid our fare amount- 
ing to over 10,000 rupees and the two twin-engined 'planes took 
off at 10 o'clock. The 'planes were heavily laden but we soon 
gained height and were flying through the Kaghan valley, a 
tourist centre famous for its beauty, towards the Babusar Pass 
and the Indus gorge beyond. We had no eyes for the valleys 
below us; the first 13,000 feet peaks were already appearing and 
we cleared many small passes by an uncomfortably narrow 


Munich to Gilgit 

margin of only sixty feet or so. After half an hour's flying the 
mountains assumed more massive proportions and all were 
covered with snow a preview of what awaited us on Nanga 

Then one of the air crew called me into the pilot's cabin and 
pointing ahead shouted: "Nanga Parbat cloudy!" Tense with 
excitement I stared in front of me. The whole sky was cloudless 
except for one mighty bank of cloud. This must conceal our 
mountain! I was still lost in conjecture when the clouds receded 
a little and the summit massif was revealed, a spectacle of such 
purity and splendour that I was momentarily overwhelmed. My 
mind flew back to the visit to Munich of the German ambassador 
to Pakistan when he had said of his flight round the mountain : 
"Nanga Parbat is a vision of such splendour that it seems 
somewhow appropriate that man should never set foot on her 
summit, and that she should continue to dominate Kashmir 
eternally inviolate." 

We continued to gaze on the mountain enthralled, drinking 
in as it were its enchantment. Only gradually did we bestir 
ourselves to compare its outline with the mental picture which 
had grown familiar to us from previous expeditions and thus to 
try to find our bearings. The Diamir flank, its icefalls covered in 
deep snow, gleamed with such brilliance that at last I reached 
for my camera and sat in the open pilot's cabin photograph- 
ing as we flew. Now and again the panorama of immense ice 
barriers and ridges would disappear from sight veiled by a bank 
of cloud as though the supreme moment of total revelation was 
being temporarily withheld.* 

We had by now cleared the Babusar pass which was still 
covered with deep powder-snow; crossing by jeep would indeed 
have cost us many valuable days. The Dakota began to drop 
from its height of 18,000 feet and headed for the Indus valley. 
Nanga Parbat still rose up to our right, a veritable corner-pillar 

* These constant atmospheric disturbances are a particular feature of the 
mountain. It is said that Nanga Parbat lulls the climber into a sense of security 
and then strikes. During the fateful expedition of 1934 a blizzard was raging 
around the lower camps while higher up Merkl and his companions were still 
advancing towards the summit in bright sunshine. They were thus trapped without 


Nanga Parbat 

of the gigantic Himalayan range surpassing every other peak 
on the horizon. The 'plane swung to the right and suddenly our 
future approach route came into view; we could see the Buldar 
ridge, the East Arete, Silver Crag, the two north summits, 
Ganalo Peak and, at the foot of the magnificent ice wall of the 
North-East Flank, the Fairy Meadow which marked the 
beginning of the snow line. I was still preoccupied with thoughts 
of the mountain and memories of my brother when I became 
aware that the 'plane was skirting huge precipices and dropping 
down more and more towards the Gilgit River, obviously 
preparing to land. 

A gay scene confronted us as we stepped from the 'plane. 
The pipe band of the Gilgit Scouts was there to greet us and we 
were received by Mr. Mohammed Khan, the Gilgit Political 
Agent, the Mir of Hunza, the local doctor, the Commander of 
the Gilgit Scouts and other leading figures of this small Himala- 
yan community. As each came forward to welcome us wreaths 
of sweet-smelling flowers were hung round our necks until we 
looked less like mountaineers than cattle en fete. A row of 
Hunza porters was already assembled; they were magnificent 
fellows and looked like being good substitutes for the still 
missing Sherpas. 

After this really heart-warming welcome it was my duty to 
inspect the guard of honour accompanied by the Mir of Hunza 
and the Political Agent. The Gilgit Scouts are an institution 
going back to the days of the British Raj. They are part of the 
frontier corps led by regular army officers but are recruited 
locally and are not part of the army. This duty discharged, we 
were then conveyed by jeep to our bungalow for luncheon, after 
which followed discussion of arrangements for jeeps, porters 
and Hunzas and the important question of how we were to 
negotiate the imperfect road in the Indus valley between Talichi 
and the Rakhiot Bridge. 

I was obliged to devote most of my time on the following day 
to social calls although I was beginning to chafe at the impos- 
sibility of getting down to any writing, much less to any serious 
work of preparation. For, to the detriment of our digestions not 
yet accustomed to the Pakistani cuisine, all the local dignitaries 


Munich to Gilgit 

were vying with each other for the honour of entertaining us, and 
the last thing I wanted to do was to offend our kind and well- 
meaning hosts. Obviously an expedition such as ours provided 
welcome relief from the general monotony of life in this remote 
spot and it gave me great pleasure a few days later to bestow 
upon the Political Agent, who was a portly gentleman, the title 
of "Father of the Expedition" in recognition of his great 
helpfulness and many services to us. 

It was natural that a polo game should have formed part of 
the entertainment arranged in our honour, for the game 
originated in Central Asia and has become part of community 
life there. It is played all over the Hunza principality, even in 
remote hamlets, where the spectators sit on stone walls enclosing 
the ground. Gilgit teams played for our benefit although, alas, 
the game was interrupted by a sand storm and could not be 
played to a conclusion. 

During all this time we spent in Gilgit no woman was seen in 
public, with the one exception of the doctor's wife who sat with 
us on the official dais to watch the polo game. In the Hunza 
principality Purdah is not so strictly enforced. This may have 
something to do with the fact that the Hunzas belong to the 
Ismaili sect whose head is the fabulous Aga Khan. 

After the hot days of the Sindh desert the green fields and 
orchards of the Gilgit valley were a source of great delight to us. 
We now found ourselves in a countryside in many ways com- 
parable with our own Alpine valleys. The people too were very 
much after the Tyrolese pattern and one felt at ease with them 
from the first moment. The gardens with their mulberry trees, 
elms and standard roses rising above a profusion of multi- 
coloured flowers might well have belonged to the foothills of 
Upper Bavaria. But for all this apparent fertility the region has 
but meagre rainfall. It is irrigated by little streams fed by the 
glaciers from the mountains which rise behind the vast barren 
walls of rock enclosing the valleys. The supply of water depends 
on the quantity of ice melted by the sun on the glaciers. A spell 
of cool cloudy weather may mean drought, while paradoxically 
bright sunshine promises abundant water supply. Gilgit is 
built on relatively extensive terraces spreading high up the valley 


Nanga Parbat 

banks. These abound with fruit trees, and apricots grow wild 
even in the highest parts of the surrounding mountain valleys. 

All the western types in Gilgit seem to be Hunzas. They come 
from the Hunza territory which stretches northward from Gilgit 
up to the mountain town of Baltit built in terraces into the slopes 
of the vast Hunza valley at a height of some 8,200 feet. Towards 
the Soviet frontier it is protected by a mighty chain of 23,000- 
25,000 foot peaks extending from the Boiohagur Duanasir up 
to the Batura. Towards the south the steep north face of the 
25,500 foot Rakaposhi presents a magnificent spectacle. 

Originally the name "Hunza" referred solely to the river 
valley but over the centuries it came also to apply to that tribe 
of the Burusho-speaking peoples which had settled on its 
western bank. This mountain tribe comprising some 10,000 souls 
is now distributed in well over a hundred villages situated at 
heights varying from 5,000 to 8,000 feet. Thanks partly to the 
exceptional degree of their isolation the Hunzas have been able 
to preserve their millennia old civilization on an extremely 
primitive level uninfluenced by the tide of mechanized progress 
which has swept the world at large. Moreover, the Hunzas have 
also kept their racial characteristics intact and as one approaches 
Gilgit or penetrates into the Hunza valley one has the impression 
of coming across an isolated ethnic group within the Asiatic 
family. The tale goes that the Hunzas have in some way 
descended from European stock. They have a story that their 
community was founded by three warriors who remained 
behind from the campaign of Alexander the Great, but whether 
this legend has any basis in history is open to question. Similar 
isolated groups have been discovered in the nearby mountain 
valleys of the Hindukush in Afghanistan in whose language no 
traces whatever of Mongolian, Semitic or Indo-Germanic 
origin can be found. The Hunzas' Burusho language too would 
have developed independently in the course of past millennia. 
It is possible that the Burusho language may be a relic of an 
ancient language spoken by aborigines in the whole of Northern 
India before the Sanskrit-speaking (Indo-Germanic) invaders 
broke in from Persia. 

The royal dynasty, so the Mir of Hunza maintains, have 


Munich to Gilgit 

wielded the sceptre since the time of the crusades and penetrated 
into the valley from Baltistan. Certainly the current ruler who 
was present at the various functions we attended, was of a 
different type from his subjects. The genuine Hunzas who, as I 
have said, show a striking resemblance to our Tyrolese, are 
handsome people of medium build. In European dress they 
would probably pass unnoticed in an Austrian mountain village. 
Nevertheless Rhabar Hassan, a police officer who acted later 
as our liaison officer, told us that the same crude customs 
prevailed with the Hunzas as in the Rakhiot and Astor valleys. 
He said, by way of illustration, that a man who murdered his 
wife's lover would be imprisoned for twenty years, but if he 
despatched both his rival and his unfaithful wife then he would 
be acquitted. It seems possible that this story was more colourful 
than accurate, or else dated from the distant past, for to-day 
crimes of violence are practically unknown within the Hunza 
community and social life is governed by the Mir's benevolent 
autocracy without recourse to definite laws. 

As to the quality of the Hunza porters in comparison with 
the Sherpas of Nepal and Darjeeling, I would say that potentially 
they are every bit as good both in physique and mental equip- 
ment, though they lack the long-standing mountaineering 
experience of the Everest porters. The Hunzas have had only 
sporadic contact with climbing expeditions and it would be 
unjust to expect from them the qualities which we take for 
granted in the Sherpas. But they will surely improve with 
training and experience and it would be an altogether healthy 
development if the Sherpas were obliged by competition from 
the west to modify their excessive wage demands. The conquest 
of Nanga Parbat with the help of Hunza porters was just within 
the limits of the possible. But in an attempt on a peak of the 
difficulty of Chogori (K2), for instance, it would be necessary 
to take a carefully chosen team of porters a few weeks before- 
hand and put them through a course of alpine training. Once 
educated in the basic principles of rock and ice work I think the 
Hunzas would be well on the way to becoming proficient 
climbers. Certainly the material is there. 



The Approach 

IT WAS NOW 8th May, our second day in Gilgit, and we were 
impatient to get to grips with the mountain. The team had been 
busy at the airport on the previous day repacking the supplies 
and equipment into carrying loads and everything was now 
ready for our departure. Kuno Rainer had proved himself the 
soul of helpfulness. Modest and self-effacing to a degree yet 
always ready to lend a hand where it was most needed, he had 
endeared himself to us all. 

Throughout our journey in Pakistan we had been trying to 
get hold of a Pakistani flag to carry up from camp to camp and, 
if fortune favoured us, to plant on the summit. But so far no 
flag had been forthcoming. Even in Rawalpindi where, aided by 
Colonel Ullah's driver, we had continued our search on the eve 
of our flight, we had met with no success. But now events took a 
dramatic turn. In the presence of the high military and civil 
dignitaries of Gilgit and the State of Hunza, the Political Agent, 
Mr. Mohammed Khan, presented us with a large green and white 
banner bearing the Moslem symbol to fly at Base Camp, and a 
small pennant to be carried to the summit. The entire ceremony 
was filmed. The Political Agent, obviously affected by the 
thought that his image would shortly be seen all over the 
world, was so overcome by stage fright that two rehearsals 
were necessary before the cameraman was satisfied. Then the 
Scout band struck up and I made a short speech of thanks to the 
local potentate and, through him, to the Pakistani government. 
The ceremony concluded with the Pakistani cheer, Zindabad! 
"Nanga Parbat expedition: Zindabad! Germany: Zindabad! 


The Approach 

Pakistan: Zindabad!" to which we responded with three 
resounding Berg HeiVs. The Political Agent shook hands with 
each of us in turn and soon the first group were on their way to 
the airport whence we were to set off for Talichi in relays by 

On the airfield Ertl had an agreeable encounter. He was 
filming our convoy of jeeps when an airport worker went up to 
him and said in English: "I have seen you on Port Mechili in 
Africa!" Hans had served there as a war reporter and when 
Rommel's men captured a battalion of Indian soldiers, he had 
spoken a few words of Hindustani to this Hunza man. The 
encounter had been only very brief but it was Hans's film 
camera that had stirred the Hunza to recognition. 

The six of us who stayed behind spent the remainder of the 
afternoon resting pleasantly beneath an old elm in the bungalow 
garden, while the wealth of flowers around us filled the air with 
heavenly fragrance. In the evening there was another party at 
the officers' mess and we were all a little merry when at midnight 
we returned to our beds. Everyone had now moved into my 
bungalow as it was the biggest and most comfortable, being 
equipped with running water, shower baths, plenty of cupboards, 
tables and chairs, a splendid verandah and five servants ready 
to do one's slightest bidding. Built high into the southern slope 
of the Gilgit valley and commanding magnificent views of 
comely orchards and grand mountain scenery, the bungalow 
was ideally situated and, but for the pull of the mountain, 
would have been an idyllic spot for a protracted stay. 

On the previous day only five jeeps had gone to Talichi; they 
would not return until today and thus it would be afternoon 
before the second batch could start. This meant an unfortunate 
delay. It was to be hoped that the bargaining in Talichi with the 
Thassildar from Chilas, our link with the porters, was mean- 
while turning out to our advantage and that a reasonable price 
for transport from Talichi to the Base Camp would be agreed. 
Knips and Frauenberger were in charge of the preliminary talks. 

We now learned by letter that there were three hundred 
porters at Talichi, hill peasants assembled there on the orders 
of the government, and that they were asking 50 rupees each 


Nanga Parbat 

for two days' march starting from the bungalow. It was a long 
route, following the Indus valley to the Rakhiot Bridge and 
thence across the 8,850 foot Buldar Ridge up to Tato, the last 
settlement in the Rakhiot valley. From there the way coiled 
steeply up to the Fairy Nfeadow and reached the interim Base 
Camp after a further two hours' march. But even so the price 
was excessive. A few years back the coolies would get 4-6 
rupees for such a march. Obviously we should have to bargain, 
a time-consuming procedure. But as only five instead of ten 
jeeps were in operation the approach would in any case have 
to be somewhat delayed. 

The first jeep transport was accomplished without incident 
but four out of the five vehicles returned in need of repair. 
Things began to look grim. We now tried to hire private jeeps 
and one contractor promised his only one for the following day. 
He undertook to run it to Talichi four times which would have 
meant shifting quite a number of loads, but in fact he went only 
once. We arranged, however, that on the day following twenty- 
five horses should be marshalled into a transport column and 
carry a hundred loads to Talichi in two days. Mohammed Khan 
(the Political Agent) our only helper in all our tribulations, had 
only a single jeep at his disposal. He was a real friend and 
would have done anything he could for us but obviously he 
could not achieve the impossible. 

While we were thus occupied in Gilgit our friends in Talichi 
were getting restless. Their negotiations with the porters were 
rendered the more difficult as the men were not particularly 
keen to have the job and would rather have been working their 
own fields. 

At last, on Sunday, May 10th, a loaded jeep accompanied by 
Hermann Kollensperger left Gilgit for Talichi and within two 
hours a large caravan of thirty donkeys carrying a hundred 
and twenty loads, trotted off. This meant that each beast was 
carrying four loads, a weight of about 200 Ibs., an almost 
incredible feat. However, it must be admitted that on arrival in 
Talichi many of the animals were near to collapse. 

On the same day a further twenty Hunzas arrived in Gilgit 
to offer us their services. They had come barefoot and scantily 


The Approach 

clad from their villages in the Hunza country,, a distance of 
sixty-three miles. But we no longer had any use for them and all 
we could do was to give them one day's pay of ten rupees so 
that they could buy food for their return journey. 

At midday I suddenly received a telephone call from Talichi. 
It was Knips reporting that the porters were getting out of hand 
from having nothing to do and that unless the loads arrived that 
afternoon there would be trouble. On hearing this Mr. Moham- 
med Khan at once put his personal jeep at our disposal and by 
early afternoon I was on my way from hospitable Gilgit to 
Talichi accompanied by Ertl and a Hunza porter. We had an 
exceptional driver and covered the difficult route in the incredibly 
short time of two and a half hours. 

Our break-neck journey took us along a narrow road hewn 
into the living rock of the mountainside round hundreds of 
bends, under overhanging rock, through bottle-necks, gorges 
and even torrents. At times we were driving several hundred 
yards above the Gilgit valley and later above the Indus. While 
still in the Gilgit valley at the confluence of the Hunza and Gilgit 
Rivers, we saw to the north the last shimmers of light on the ice 
flanks of Rakaposhi which, its shape reminiscent of a mitre, 
surged majestically above the surrounding peaks. The thoughts 
of countless climbers have long revolved round this 25,550 foot 
Karakoram giant and one day it too will meet its conquerors. 

After one and a half hours of this mad progress we reached 
the confluence of the Gilgit and the Indus. These mighty rivers, 
both very wide at this point, have sawn their way into the rock 
walls in a series of terraces. The rivers themselves flow past deep 
down between 150-300 feet high sandbanks, the work of the 
flowing water over the ages, while nearly 3,000 feet above the 
river bed hollows scooped in the rock, surfaces worn smooth as 
glass and a stratum of lighter-coloured stone give abiding 
evidence of the mighty torrents which once raged there. 

At about half past five we saw Nanga Parbat again, this time 
from Gor. There it stood in singular beauty, its icy flanks 
glowing in the evening sunshine as if to welcome us. Its outline 
was partly obscured by the foothills but to the left we could see 
the East Arete rising from that spot where in 1934 Camp VII 


Nanga Parbat 

had stood on the Whipped Cream Roll, up towards the Silver 
Saddle, which in turn was flanked by the mighty cones of Silver 
Crag and the South-East Summit. The Silver Saddle is almost 
overwhelming in its beauty and the sight of it on this evening 
stirred our enthusiasm to new heights. Instinctively we reached 
for our field-glasses. Between Silver Crag and the North 
Summit a depression in the rock formation of the north-east 
flank, completely filled with snow and ice, makes an almost 
horizontal plane which then, in drops of several hundred feet 
at a time, plunges into the north-east wall of Nanga Parbat. 
From this ice-field, the Silver Plateau^ situated at a height of 
25,000 feet, masses of ice in the form of snow-dust avalanches 
turtle through the couloir in the north-east face down to the 
Rakhiot glacier. 

Thus our first sight of Nanga Parbat from below, just before 

As we approached the Indus valley it was becoming oppres- 
sively close and the bare yellow-brown stones were almost 
incandescent from the stored-up heat of the day. Threatening 
yellowy-grey clouds were gathering over in the Astor valley and 
scarcely had we arrived at the bungalow in Talichi than the first 
heavy drops of rain began to fall. Swiftly it gathered momentum 
and soon a mighty storm was raging and roaring through the 
Indus valley. But it spent itself as quickly as it had come and 
soon all was still again. 

But we could not give ourselves up to the contemplation of 
all the wild beauty around us for about three hundred coolies, 
that is to say hill peasants, and few Hunzas awaited our 
instructions. So, by the light of a single storm-lantern we got 
down to the job of preparing the loads for the first eighty 
porters to leave that night; It had been agreed that 25 rupees 
would be paid for each march to the interim Base Camp at the 
snow-line and that for loads of over 50 Ibs. 8 annas for every 
additional pound would be paid. This meant that it was costing 
the expedition about 1,000, an enormous sum, for transport 
from Talichi to the interim Base Camp. 

Meanwhile the Pakistani mountain peasants sat about in the 
dark in groups round the camp fire intoning their melancholy 


The Approach 

chants. Suddenly, as though possessed, the native band broke 
into deafening drumming and piping and this continued until 
well after midnight. 

On the following day, Monday, llth May, the pack animals 
began arriving at the bungalow. The porters at once relieved 
them of their loads and watered the poor weary creatures. Then 
everyone got busy and the bungalow garden became a veritable 
hive of activity. Knips sat with the Tassildar on a pile of 
packing-cases and both of them checked and rechecked the 
spring-balance as every load was weighed. The weight in kilo- 
grams was then marked on the load in blue pencil and was noted 
down by the Tassildar against the name of the porter. The load 
was then taken up and a few minutes later could be seen moving 
along the Indus valley on the back of some mountain peasant. 

As most of the cases containing our provisions were now on 
their way to the interim Base Camp, we had to content ourselves 
with biscuits and chocolate after our refreshing dip in the clear 
waters of a mountain stream, discovered ten minutes' walk 
away by Fritz Aumann who was a fiend for cleanliness. 

At noon on Tuesday, 12th May, the rearguard of the 
expedition Rainer, Bitterling and Kempter arrived, bringing 
on their jeep the last crates from Gilgit. Meanwhile Walter 
Frauenberger and Hermann Buhl with eight Hunzas had gone 
ahead to set up the interim Basg^Camp at the snow-Une at an 
altitude of about 12,000 feet. 

While we were feeding the new arrivals with quickly prepared 
soup we received a call from some officers from Chilas. Chilas 
lies about thirty miles down-river in the Indus valley and is the 
seat of a Political Agent who, however, is subordinate to the 
Political Agent of Gilgit. The town of Chilas gives its name to 
the entire surrounding region. 

And now, in the early morning hours of Wednesday, 13th 
May, it was time for the main body of the team to move on. 
Kollensperger and Bitterling, incorrigible late-sleepers, were to 
follow with the last porters the same afternoon. Otto Kempter 
and Kuno Rainer were to bring up the rear on Thursday. 

We were all beginning to feel some depression at the total 
absence of news from home since leaving Karachi. The feeling 


Nanga Parbat 

of being so completely cut off from the world was not a pleasant 
one. It was now twelve days since we had left Karachi and we 
had been on the move altogether now for four weeks. We felt 
as if we had been sending all our letters into the void, for we 
had had no word in reply. Our postal arrangements were not 
yet functioning properly for we had originally told our friends 
to write direct to Gilgit. This meant that even if sent by air- 
mail our letters would have to come overland from Rawalpindi. 
And it would take two to three weeks longer via Chilas. When 
we arrived in Karachi we made arrangements that letters 
addressed to us at the Embassy there would be flown in batches 
to Gilgit and would be driven from there by jeep to the Rakhiot 
Bridge where our mail-runner would be ready to take them on. 
But of course the earlier mail did not profit from this arrange- 
ment and that is how it came about that letters posted before 
the middle of May did not reach us until after the conquest of 
the summit, while later postings reached Base Camp by air 
within about twelve days. 

It was half past six when we at length moved off from 
Talichi. Our path turned and twisted and when we caught sight 
of Talichi again in the afternoon from the top of the Buldar 
Ridge it appeared as a remote green oasis. 

Our path lay on the important caravan route Gilgit-Chilas- 
Afghanistan-Kabul. The road was dusty and swung now near to, 
now away from, the Indus; in places it was actually built on to 
the precipitous walls of the right river bank, and was along its 
whole length mercilessly exposed to the sun. After swinging 
round innumerable bends and skirting many ribs of rock which 
ran down to the river, we ultimately gained a long straight 
stretch leading to the Rakhiot Bridge. The Bridge itself was 
reached after a march of two and a half hours. Hundreds of 
mountain peasants were at work on road repairs as torrential 
rain and avalanches of stones had made the way partly impas- 
sable for jeeps. All along the r ute we met porters who had 
carried one load to the interim Base Camp and were now 
returning to Talichi for another. There were altogether three 
hundred porters on the move, most of whom had to make two 
journeys to shift the five hundred loads. Over the whole route 


The Approach 

there was neither tree nor rock to offer relief from the heat of 
the day and at noon the sun beat down almost vertically 
so the porters preferred to ascend with their loads at night, 
returning over the Buldar Ridge by day. 

Knips covered part of the route on horseback. He made a 
noble spectacle but his progress actually was slower than that 
of the footsloggers. 

On the road from Talichi to the Rakhiot Bridge I received my 
first message from Walter Frauenberger informing me that the 
porters had carried their loads up to 12,000 feet, the site of the 
interim Base Camp, and would not be proceeding to the perma- 
nent Base Camp until the 14th May. It was now the 13th. The 
14th May marks the beginning of the Moslem fast of Ramazan, 
a month during which the faithful take a full meal only at 
sundown, nothing but water being permitted during the day. 
The porters would obviously not be in the best physical con- 
dition during this period. They would still be capable of carrying 
loads in a zone above 10,000 feet, the climate of which corre- 
sponds roughly to temperate European conditions, but they could 
not be expected to work in the heat of the Kashmir valleys. 

It should be emphasized that it is only at about 10,000 feet 
that vegetation really begins and that it then extends as a belt 
of meadowland and forest to almost 13,000 feet. The last 
isolated patches of tree-growth usually consist of gnarled 
weather-beaten birches and dwarf pines, while the meadowland 
extends right to the snow-line. The Indus valley, at a height of 
about 3,000 feet, is nothing more than barren rocky wasteland 
where all green things are scorched up by the sub-tropical sun 
unless they are specially irrigated and nursed as in the oasis 
towns and villages. To stand amid this desolation and, with 
head thrown back, to look up the sheer bare walls of sand and 
rock is an impressive experience. For there, far above in the 
10,000 feet region, one can discern a ribbon of bright green 
running the entire length of the valley. Above that a dark green 
belt is visible, the forest of mighty Himalayan pines. Higher 
still, one can see with the aid of field-glasses the slender trunks 
of the mountain birches, and finally, stretching to the summit, 
the world of eternal snow. 


Nanga Parbat 

But to return to the fast of Ramazan. There was no mistaking 
the fact that the efficiency of the porters from the neighbourhood 
of our approach route was somewhat impaired by their devotion 
to their religious duties. Our Hunzas, however, who were 
subject to the same religious laws, had been granted exemption 
from fasting in order to assist the German sahibs. They had set 
off from their village with ceremonial honours to share in the 
struggle for the summit of Nanga Parbat. This entailed for them 
the obligation not to abandon their post unless released by the 
expedition leader, otherwise they could expect to incur the 
contempt of their community and be sentenced to forced labour 
by their ruler, the Mir of Hunza. 

Since Pakistan achieved independence there have been no 
more coolies as such. The mountain peasants work for organized 
undertakings such as road-building or, as in our case, an 
expedition, only if they receive official orders from their 
government to do so. As we had gained the goodwill of the 
Pakistani government from the start it was comparatively easy 
for us to arrange everything as we wished. Without this good- 
will such a project would be beset with exceptional difficulties. 

On the morning of the 13th May the transport column was 
approaching the Rakhiot Bridge. It was 1 1 o'clock by the time 
everyone had arrived and the day was getting unbearably hot. 
Over the bridge on the southern pier we found a memorial 
tablet in English commemorating all the sahibs and Sherpas 
of the 1937 expedition. It will be remembered that this expedition 
went out under the leadership of Dr, Karl Wien and that during 
the night of the 13th- 14th June all members but one were 
assembled in Camp IV at an altitude of 20,200 feet on the 
highest terrace of the Rakhiot Glacier. At midnight a compara- 
tively small cornice from the west flank of the Rakhiot ridge 
had broken loose and had buried the whole team together with 
their Sherpa porters under its masses of ice. 

Towards midday we sought some rest and shade under the 
eaves of a locked hut on the banks of the Indus, the only cool 
spot within sight, and drank gladly of the gritty, silt-laden river 
water to allay our raging thirst. Resting thus to escape the worst 
heat of the day and watching our porters jogging along under 


Climbing over the Buldar ridge on the way to Tato 

Camp I with a view towards 
the Chongra group 

Camp I 

Porters going up to Camp 
11, The Camp Spur is hid- 
den in mist. To the left, 
the South Chongra Peak 

In the Kakhiot Ice-fall 

Camp 11(17,500 feet) 
start on the Camp II 

The Approach 

their loads round the serpentine bends of the opposite bank, we 
were treated to an unusual spectacle. Suddenly the whole scene 
came, to vivid life as, in the blazing heat of noon, a gaily dressed 
Mtfslem bridal pair approached on horseback, the old people 
following on foot. As soon as the bride caught sight of us she 
covered her face with her white veil. 

It was now Fritz Aumann's suggestion that we should take a 
plunge into the waters of the holy river to cool ourselves a 
quite unforgettable delight. We emerged cleansed from the dust 
of the roads, invigorated and refreshed and set about ascending 
the Buldar Ridge. 

We now had to leave the high valley of the Indus (3,600 feet) 
and gain a further 5,500 feet by means of steep serpentine bends. 
The broiling ascent along the barren crest of the Buldar Ridge 
took us over precipitous and desolate terrain which looked as 
though some primordial giant had scattered masses of rock and 
boulder in indiscriminate confusion, a rocky wilderness without 
trace of life or vegetation, and it was not until we had reached 
a height of about 8,000 feet that we caught sight of isolated 
tufts of rosemary springing from the rocks. The path was so 
steep and narrow that whenever we came to sharply projecting 
rock ledges the donkey-drivers had to grip the beasts by their 
tails and shove their hind-quarters up or down in the right 

When the last and highest crest of the Buldar Ridge had been 
reached the sharply twisting path dropped obliquely to the right 
towards Tato. Throughout the ascent I had made a point of 
offering cigarettes to the returning porters, as well as to any 
whom we overtook, and giving them a light, for practically 
none of the poor wretches carried matches. We were obliged to 
cover the last miles to Tato in darkness. The path dragged on 
along the hillside for far longer than it appeared at first, and 
well before we entered the village itself we could see the camp 
fires glimmering between the trees like so many small red dots. 
Then at last we knew we were nearing Tato we could smell it. 
For Tato possesses a hot sulphur spring and its characteristic 
bad-egg smell was wafted towards us on the prevailing wind. 
So now, in pitch darkness we followed the smell of H a S and the 


Nanga Parbat 

little stream which, fed by the hot spring, bubbled steaming 
down to the valley. Suddenly we emerged from the woods and 
saw straight ahead of us a group of Hunza porters sitting around 
a huge camp fire. They came towards us with a can of water 
but we were obliged to decline their thoughtful gesture for it 
was our resolve, as long as we were near inhabited settlements, 
to drink only boiled water this as insurance against typhoid 
and other infections. 

Hans Ertl immediately set about marking out an excellent 
camping site and in no time a tent was run up with our camp 
fire blazing merrily in front of it. Meanwhile Knips, Kollens- 
perger and Bitterling had joined us and Ertl produced a refresh- 
ing drink for us all Bolivian coca-tea. Then we settled into 
our sleeping bags and were soon in the arms of Morpheus. 

At five the next morning (14th May) we prepared to move off 
again. The Hunzas had had their fire going all through the night 
to keep themselves warm, for they had as yet received no sleeping- 
bags or blankets from us. It would not be a practical proposition 
to distribute any equipment until we reached the interim Base 
Camp. Fritz Aumann was pressing for an early start so as to 
avoid having to make a strenuous ascent in the heat of noon 
as had happened on the previous day. He had already prepared 
an enormous pot of porridge for us and this appetising breakfast 
put us all in good heart. Everything in this world is relative; 
the porridge had been hastily prepared, it was full of lumps and 
on top of that had been burned in the cooking, but after days 
of dry biscuits and packet soups it tasted to us like nectar and 

Our way now took us between the last stone dwellings of 
Tato and up along the foot-paths of the Rakhiot valley. Here 
we came to a crystal-clear spring, the first palatable fresh water 
we could drink without misgivings. 

The Rakhiot valley is sharply incised and very close; its 
inhabitants have therefore to a considerable height laid out 
narrow stone terraces as a base for a thin layer of soil on which 
to grow their meagre crop of grain. The dwellings themselves 
are mostly lean-to constructions built on to the hillside, the 
remaining walls consisting of round stones cemented together. 


The Approach 

The roofs are of wood fixed with clay and weighted with stones. 
Everything is extremely primitive. The inhabitants are dark- 
skinned people. The men wear moustaches, as indeed they do 
all over Kashmir, and the women in their trousers, knitted 
jackets and head-dresses decorated with brass medallions, are 
reminiscent of Red Indian squaws. Tending their goats there 
are no sheep in this region they certainly make a picturesque 

Our path from Tato now lay through sparse woodland of fir 
and pine and upwards by many steep serpentine bends, until 
in about two hours we reached at last the Fairy Meadow, a 
moment keenly anticipated by us all. The local people, incident- 
ally, have a much less romantic name for it; they call it simply 
Marshy Meadow. Naturally we all had our preconceived ideas 
about it and it must be admitted that in the event we suffered 
some disappointment. The view of the North-East Flank of 
the mountain which was now opened up to us was quite over- 
whelming, but the meadow itself was much smaller than we had 
imagined and furthermore the Lambadar, or mayor, of Tato 
had turned the centre of the meadow into a ploughed field 
which he had fenced in by a hedge of brownish withered-looking 
shrubs. On the woodland side there were a few wooden shacks 
which presumably corresponded to the neat aim huts seen in 
the Alps, but had nothing in common with them in their 
appearance. Naturally no edelweiss was out yet; this splendour 
would be reserved for our return journey. 

Some of the porters lay down and rested beneath the pines to 
enjoy nature in their own way. I searched for the spot from 
where, twenty-one years before, my brother Willy Merkl had 
taken the picture through which the Fairy Meadow had become 
such a familiar scene to all of us at home. I took a few colour 
shots and we then continued on our way up through the gently 
sloping forest of tall pines to a clearing traversed by a glacier 
stream. From now onwards everything was green and the 
landscape up here at 10,000 feet reminded us forcibly of our 
home mountains, particularly of the Western Alps. 

Quite soon, almost too soon after all the beautiful sights of 
the past hours, the day's march came to an end and we arrived 


Nanga Parbat 

at the interim Base Camp set up two days previously by Frauen- 
berger and Buhl at a height of 12,000 feet. These two had in the 
intervening time put in a tremendous amount of hard work 
and a large store tent had been erected to accommodate the 
loads which were arriving daily. 

While the porters baked their chapati or squatted idly round 
the fire, Walter Frauenberger was engaged in a battle of words 
with the head man. The porters were flatly refusing to carry 
on up to the Base Camp proper. It looked as if we and the 
Hunzas would have to knuckle in and do all the carrying 
ourselves. In the afternoon Hermann Buhl came down from 
the site of the permanent Base Camp with a few Hunzas. They 
had that morning taken up the second big tent and while 
clearing away some snow had discovered a number of rusty 
old food tins, historical witness to the pioneer work of our 
predecessors. In the evening we new arrivals had our first 
proper meal and our first German fare for a long time. Then 
at 7 o'clock we crept into our tents tired out but rejoicing at the 
thought that the hot lowlands were at last behind us. 

At six in the morning on Friday, 15th May, Hans Ertl, 
Walter Frauenberger and Hermann Buhl set off for the perma- 
nent Base Camp with porters and loads. I accompanied them 
as far as the moraine. On the way down I met Albert Bitterling 
and Hermann Kollensperger who were likewise ascending with 
loads. Back in Camp, I first of all had a thorough discussion 
with Fritz Aumann about arrangements for the distribution of 
clothing to the Hunzas, then I organized my medical supplies 
so as to have essentials ready to hand in case of emergency. 
After that I settled down in front of my tent to write up my 
diary, before me the gigantic ice precipices of Nanga Parbat. 
From the interim Base Camp the eye could roam freely from 
Silver Crag to the right to the Diama Gaps and then over to the 
19,700 foot high Ganalo Peak. In the light of morning the 
mountain gleamed in purest silver and the sheer dazzling ice of 
the north-east wall held the eye in spellbound fascination. 

In the afternoon, Fritz Aumann, our Base Camp Com- 
mandant, aided by Walter Frauenberger, attacked the job of 
distributing equipment to the Hunzas pullovers, anoraks, 


The Approach 

trousers, shirts, socks, pants, balaclava helmets and head- 
bands an occasion for great rejoicing. The ice-axes were a 
source of special pride. Hans Ertl had just prepared to film the 
scene when the sun went in and frustrated him. This was 
characteristic of the prevailing weather; the sky would usually 
become overcast around midday and in the afternoon would be 
obscured by heavy rain clouds. And once the sun was veiled it 
would become shudderingly cold. The distribution occupied the 
whole afternoon and when it was completed the Hunzas 
arranged themselves in groups and, to the strains of a four-piece 
native band, performed for our benefit a dance of joy. The jerky 
but quite graceful movements were executed with pride and 
abandon. The band consisted of two clarinet-like instruments 
and two drums, and the more shrill the sounds emanating from 
the wind instruments the more orgiastic became the dancing. 
Clad in their new gay pullovers, balaclava helmets and long 
white underpants, their shirt-tails flapping and the newly 
acquired climbing boots on their feet, the Hunzas were a 
gorgeous sight. They even went so far as to put on their puttees, 
a quite superfluous refinement down here on the greensward. 

At 6 o'clock on the following morning (16th May) Walter 
Frauenberger and Hermann Buhl were already on their way 
up to the permanent Base Camp with about twenty Hunzas. 
Kollensperger and Albert Bitterling followed soon after with 
their own loads. When I started off on my own at 9 o'clock to 
take a look at the site and carry up the essential medical supplies, 
the weather was still holding although it had already clouded 
over somewhat. The signs were that it was about to break. 

My way from the interim camp to the permanent site led 
first past birch and tuja trees and followed a stream fed by the 
Ganalo glacier. After about twenty minutes I ascended east- 
wards across the marginal moraine of the Rakhiot glacier, 
following the glacier upwards until, after about one and a half 
hours' climbing, I arrived at the small moraine. Making my way 
across these wild boulder-strewn screes, with the blue-white 
walls of the 26,000 foot peak above me radiant in their purity 
and splendour, I felt that down here at 13,000 feet I was still 
moving on all too earth-bound a plane and that even in this 


Nanga Parbat 

Himalayan solitude God's purity and sublimity were fully 
manifest only high up there amid the eternal snows. I felt as I 
stood there that my brother and his dead comrades could have 
no more beautiful tomb than the silvery white east ridge of 
Nanga Parbat. 

On my way to the moraine I met the Hunzas descending from 
Base Camp led by Hermann Buhl and I could see the other three 
comrades further to the east taking a direct route down the 
moraine. Shortly afterwards I was standing for the first time 
and quite alone on the moraine mound at Drexel's graveside. 
Above me gleamed the Silver Plateau while before me a salvo 
of avalanches thundered down the north-east face of the 
mountain. Obliquely below I could see the beginnings of our 
Base Camp and immediately in front of me was the modest 
memorial which the comrades of 1934 had erected on 8th June 
to the everlasting memory of their much loved fellow climber 
"Balbo". My thoughts were with Drexel's parents and with my 
brother as I read the words on the decaying cross of bronze : 

ALFRED DREXEL 1900-1934 
Solus cum Solo 

On the reverse side I read the following^words : 

"We thank God that you were one of us, indeed that you 
are still one of us, for in God all life is eternal and he who 
returns to the Lord is still in the family." 

I was deeply moved by the humility of these devout and simple 
words which I imagine had come from Drexel's parents. I 
photographed the grave and gathered a few buds from the 
plants which covered it to take back to the bereaved family. 

While I was still making my way from the grave down the 
path of sorrow trodden by the grieving comrades of 1934 the 
sky darkened, mist gathered almost instantaneously in the 
Rakhiot valley, and in no time I found myself caught in a violent 
snow storm. I went on down to the site of the permanent Base 
Camp but as yet no tents were in position and I found only a 
number of sacks and ski-sticks and skis stacked up under a 
rock. I quickly stuffed my bandages and drugs into one of the 


The Approach 

sacks and then, despite the worsening weather could not resist 
the temptation to put on brother Willy's old Marius-Erikson 
skis for a while and execute a few turns. How I wished that 
Willy, now twenty years buried in the ice of Nanga Parbat, 
could see me! I arrived back at the interim camp at about 
1 o'clock, just in time for lunch. 

It was our idea that the Hunzas should carry up another 
consignment in the afternoon, but they would have none of this. 
As discussion developed, Rhabar Hassan, a police officer from 
Gilgit who acted as our liaison with the Hunzas, translated: 
"The Hunzas refuse to carry for a second time to-day. It is true 
that they promised Allah and their wives to help the Germans, 
but they also pledged themselves not to overtax their strength 
and to perform only one big task per day." Allah was obviously 
a practical institution. When I insisted that they must* go up 
once more they ostentatiously removed their pullovers, anoraks, 
boots and various other garments and struck. Hassan knew it 
was all bluff for it was quite clear that the Hunzas could not 
simply down tools and go. As already recorded, they had set 
off from their homes with great ceremony and with the express 
purpose of protecting and aiding us, and if any of them 
returned home now without apparent reason and with no 
testimonial from me, they would be put under arrest at once and 
sentenced to forced labour. However, so much time was wasted 
in argument that in any case a second ascent to Base Camp that 
day was no longer feasible. The Hunzas had got their way. 

The same afternoon Fritz assembled one of our two radio 
sets. We tuned into various wave-lengths in search of some good 
music and at 5 p.m. the United Nations transmitter in Rawal- 
pindi came through with a special weather bulletin for the Nanga 
Parbat Expedition. We could just about understand the word 
"cloudy", and this we were quite willing to accept as it had been 
snowing steadily all the afternoon. At night I switched on the 
radio in my tent and amidst a babel of Indian and Pakistani I 
picked up the B.B.C. news from London. It mentioned the 
British Everest Expedition, a matter of great interest to all of 
us and I made up my mind to listen in more frequently from 
then on. 


Nanga Parbat 

The radio was now our one and only contact with the outside 
world, for the postal arrangements had still failed to function. 
Obviously our mail must have been held up somewhere. I 
decided to make representations to the Embassy in Karachi, to 
the Ministry for Kashmiri Affairs in Rawalpindi and to the 
postal authorities in Gilgit, for we had been without any news 
whatsoever since 1st May. Naturally we wanted to read the 
press reports and know how our countrymen were reacting to 
our progress on the mountain, and we were anxious for family 
news, and news of the outside world in general. 

Our first Sunday at the interim Base Camp (17th May) 
began inauspiciously with rain and snow, but as it happened it 
was to be a great day for us all. At 8 a.m. some porters came up 
from Tato with the news that a strange Sahib had arrived in the 
village. And within a quarter of an hour who should be standing 
in front of our tent but Peter Aschenbrenner himself! His 
arrival was heralded by the rolling drums and shrill piping of a 
village band. Peter was in excellent form and looking like an 
Englishman on safari in his shorts and topee. I was delighted 
that he had, in response to my pressing cable, been able to leave 
earlier to fit in with our accelerated approach. And now, here 
he was, Peter Aschenbrenner, the man who understood all the 
problems and cares of an expedition such as this and who 
knew the ground like the palm of his hand. He had left home 
on the Monday, and now after only six days he was with us on 
the mountain. A few years back one needed a minimum of four 
weeks to cover this enormous distance. Now one can fly to 
Karachi in thirty-six hours and, with good connections, be in 
the heart of the Himalaya within three days of leaving Munich. 
It is an open question whether such technical achievements are 
always to the good from the human standpoint, and for my 
part I appreciated the long sea voyage for the opportunity it 
gave us to get to know one another and to shake down in each 
other's company. 

Peter's arrival had a wonderfully bracing effect upon the 
whole camp. It had been noticeable back home that an atmo- 
sphere of quiet confidence had prevailed in all the preparatory 
work in which he had acted as advisor. And now again, even 


The Approach 

within a few hours of his arrival, Peter's sound knowledge of all 
the vital aspects of the expedition had a reassuring effect upon 

We at once got down to the discussion of fundamental 
questions; a second large tent was erected, orderlies allocated 
and a time-table worked out for the transport of loads. It was 
not until all this had been accomplished that Peter, prodded 
several times by Walter Frauenberger, unpacked his rucksack 
and produced a pile of letters and parcels, but it was still some 
time before I got down to reading mine. 

All that afternoon I lay in my tent writing up my diary. 
Meanwhile Peter and Fritz Aumann were busy transforming 
the second large tent into a communal mess. A row of crates 
were pushed together to make a long centre table while sacks 
stuffed with some of the softer items of our equipment served as 
seats. Hans Ertl had in the meantime returned from his 
reconnaissance at the site of the permanent Base Camp and on 
his way down had met Albert Bitterling and Walter Frauen- 
berger who were moving up there to-day. Within a few days the 
interim Base Camp would be evacuated and the flags of Pakistan, 
Germany and Austria would be flying above our permanent 
Base Camp. 

Heavy wet snow had continued to fall all through Sunday 
but in the evening the weather began to clear. Snow was now 
lying down to 12,000 feet. At 9 o'clock we were still deliberating 
in the mess tent, examining and re-examining the whole question 
of equipment for the high altitude camps. Peter was bristling 
with energy. It had turned cold and the others were already 
asleep when Peter and I at length parted company and, with the 
help of torches, groped our way through the slush and darkness 
to our respective tents. 

During the night Peter was forced to the conclusion that our 
sleeping-bags were inadequately padded, a fact which the rest of 
us were ready to confirm from our own experience. Accordingly 
various experiments were made in the course of the next few 
days with a view to making good this defect. Kuno Rainer turned 
tailor and sewed himself, and me too, a sack from a camel- 
hair blanket which was then fitted into the big sleeping-bag. 


Nanga Parbat 

Ertl unpicked his small sleeping-bag with professional skill 
and sewed it on to his big one to make two layers. Otto Kempter 
adopted the simple course of fitting his smaller sleeping-bag 
inside the bigger one, a solution which ultimately proved to be 
the best for the high camps, the more so as the cavity between 
the two down bags was a useful place for stowing away boots, 
socks and pullovers during the night and thus protecting them 
from cold and frost. This improvisation taught us a useful 
lesson and we resolved that for future Himalayan expeditions 
we should have our sleeping-bags made in two pieces which 
would comfortably fit together.* 

Through the good offices of the Tassildar from Chilas we 
were able at 7 a.m. on the morning following Peter's arrival 
(18th May), to enter into negotiations with the men from Tato 
for the transport of our loads up to the permanent Base Camp. 
The talks took place on a magnificent meadow with the north- 
east face of Nanga Parbat and Ganalo Peak as background. 
Knips, Peter and I were there to watch over our financial 
interests and when the coolies had been paid the last instalment 
of the money due to them for their transport from Talichi to the 
interim Base Camp, agreement was reached on the basis of five 
rupees for each ascent. Then, when all the Tato men had been 
given eye-drops as protection against snow-blindness and other 
injurious effects of ultra-violet radiation, they were ready for 
the ascent to the glacier zone. Kollensperger, Kempter, Rainer 
and Rhabar Hassan set off soon afterwards. We had planned 
that a further two hundred loads should be transferred to the 
permanent Base Camp that day and fifty of the porters would 
have to make a second ascent in the afternoon. 

The morning had been fair with an early temperature of 
3 C. and the day had later turned beautifully warm. Towards 
noon, however, the sky was once more overcast and Fritz 
Aumann and I wandered along to the Rakhiot stream to take a 
dip while there was still some warmth in the day. On our return 
we found the last fifty porters waiting for Aumann, for as Camp 

* The Everest Expedition had adopted the same design as a result of trials 
carried out in the Alps. Each climber had an inner and an outer bag of down, 
the fabric of which was nylon. 


The Approach 

Commandant he was responsible for all matters of transport. 
We were barely in camp again before the first heavy drops of 
rain had begun to fall and it was teeming down as the Hunzas 
returned from Base Camp. While some of the men selected 
suitable burdens for their next ascent from the great pile of 
loads, and subjected every sack or crate to a thorough-going 
scrutiny for weight and size, others prepared to slaughter the 
mountain goats which had been purchased on the previous day. 
The animals were first tethered by their legs and then despatched 
according to ritual by the slitting of a main artery, an operation 
which our Hunzas performed with great skill. 

It was on such an occasion of ritual slaughter that I witnessed 
a heated argument between the Hunza porter Chola-Beg and 
one of the Tato men. One maintained that a slit in the upper 
region of the larynx was the correct method according to the 
Faith; the other protested that an incision just above the 
collar-bone, i.e. through the wind-pipe, was the only true ritual 
method of slaughter. The argument flared up into a row and 
Chola-Beg was already inciting his fellow-villagers to refuse to 
eat meat which had been wrongly slaughtered. With the inter- 
vention of our good friend Hassan I laid down that, irrespective 
of whether the beast was slaughtered by a Hunza or a Tato 
man, the knife should be inserted just below the larynx. This 
compromise seemed to satisfy both parties. 

When the goat has been slaughtered the carcase is drawn, 
the bowels being cleared by blowing through them with the 
mouth; then the whole beast is roasted over an open fire. This 
was no special delicacy for us, but for the Hunzas, after the 
meagre days of the approach route, it added welcome variety 
to the daily diet of chapati. This, the staple fare of many 
Pakistanis, consists of flat cakes or loaves prepared from coarse 
barley-flour, the so-called "ata", with the addition of salt and 
water. First the flour is mixed into a dough, then it is kneaded 
between the palms into flat loaves which are then baked on hot 
stone or, if available, on a hot metal plate. The Hunzas eat 
their chapatis hot or cold, with tea, milk or, on highdays and 
holidays with goat meat but always they eat chapatis. The 
cold cakes are first dipped into liquid rancid butter, called 


Nanga Parbat 

"ghi", made from goat's milk which is simply poured into a 
hole in the ground. Over a period of months and even years, 
the water content evaporates and the solid constituents of milk, 
fat and casein combine to make a firm crumbly substance. It 
is not surprising that the "ghi" has by this time acquired a 
strong and penetrating effluvium, and if any of our plastic 
utensils ever came into contact with it they became from that 
moment quite unusable as far as we were concerned. 

After my consulting hour, which had been fixed for 5-6 p.m., 
the weather suddenly cleared and high up on the rocky crest 
of the northern Jiliper Peak a number of ibex could be seen 
silhouetted against the sky. Peter's hunting instincts were 
immediately aroused and the Hunzas were wildly enthusiastic 
that the Shikare- or Huntsman-Sahib should stalk them. But 
Peter had not yet tried out his gun and so was unable to make 
use of this unique opportunity for so it turned out to be. 

As night fell and the Hunzas fed the fire with dry branches 
we settled down to another hour's deliberation. Peter picked 
up the thread from the evening before, discussed matters of 
equipment, told us of his experiences on earlier expeditions, 
talked over his plan of attack, pin-pointing possible difficulties. 
We wound up with a few mountaineering songs, feeling full of 
confidence and in good heart. On the way back to my tent, 
having bidden the others good-night, my gaze was arrested by a 
peculiarly impressive and beautiful sight. Hassan had set up his 
cookhouse under a huge rock and had laid upon it a roof of 
green foliage. With the hood of his red anorak pulled down he 
was squatting before the fire with his boy and one of our 
Hunzas. The glowing colours of the anoraks, the leaping flames 
which cast a reddish tint upon the snow, the rock and the 
garlanded roof, looked like a Christmas crib framed in the 
velvety darkness of the night. 

On the morning of 19th May, a Tuesday, all the tents were 
covered in several inches of newly-fallen snow and some of the 
larger ones had actually collapsed beneath its weight. As a 
precaution against any future mishaps of the sort Peter ordered 
that wooden props should be inserted into the light tubular 
metal poles provided for the high-altitude tents. In the course 


The Approach 

of the day all the tents had to be cleared of snow over and over 
again ; we also buttressed them up with thin tree trunks. Because 
of the weather we spent practically the whole day in the mess 
tent, Fritz Aumann only remaining outside to make ready the 
loads which were to be carried up to Base Camp as soon as the 
weather permitted. Walter Frauenberger and Albert Bitterling 
had already moved in at the Base Camp proper and were busy 
consolidating there. 

On the following morning the Tassildar from Chilas took 
leave of us together with his two adjutants. In recognition of his 
assistance we promised to let him have a tent with all accessories 
on our return journey, and the adjutants two sleeping-bags with 
mattresses, which greatly pleased them. This promise was duly 
fulfilled on our return to Gilgit. Meanwhile, as a memento, I 
gave the Tassildar a watch together with a small hold-all 
containing essential medicaments for everyday use. Then once 
more in gratitude we shook his brown hand and watched him, 
followed by his aides, set off proudly in the direction of Tato 
to the ghastly strains of the ubiquitous four-man band. His 
function was now taken over by Rhabar Hassan who was to 
ascend with us to Base Camp and remain there until the con- 
clusion of the expedition. 

Knips's leave would soon be up now and he was to depart 
in the afternoon of 21st May. Everyone became frantically 
engaged in letter-writing as he was to take our mail with him. 
With Knips we lost a man who by reason of his personality 
and his linguistic abilities, had been of great value to the 
expedition. Three Hunzas were to go with him as far as the 
Rakhiot Bridge but he intended that night to pitch his tent in Tato. 

I now suggested that Hans Ertl and Fritz Aumann should 
pack up and move into Base Camp on the following day to join 
Walter Frauenberger and Albert Bitterling. That evening I was 
alone with Aumann in the mess tent until 10 o'clock talking 
over those problems of human relationships which loom so 
large when, as in a Himalayan expedition, a small group of men 
of widely divergent character are thrown into unique contact, 
the closeness of which is unnaturally accentuated by their 


Nanga Parbat 

The gleaming silver of the hanging glaciers and ice-falls of 
the north-east wall enticed us early from our beds on the 
following morning, Friday, 22nd May. There was a feeling 
of Fohn in the air and the uncannily beautiful light of early 
morning played strange tricks with the vision, making the 
contours of rock and mountain seem unnaturally sharp and 
deceptively close. Even Peter Aschenbrenner, old Himalayan 
hand that he was, was clearly affected by the spectacle and 
remained long absorbed with his Leica. But the sunshine was not 
to last. Hardly had we emerged from our daily ablution in the 
ice-cold Rakhiot stream than dark clouds began to gather; in 
the twinkling of an eye rain was falling steadily which in a few 
minutes turned to dense driving snow. Our Hunzas were to 
cover the journey to the Base Camp twice during the day but 
naturally there would be nothing doing without some baksheesh. 
I therefore promised them twenty cigarettes for the second 
journey and a third of a bottle of Schnaps each, which would be 
issued at the Base Camp proper when the expedition was finally 
installed there. Even so, in the afternoon a few of the Hunzas 
complained of their feet and only fifteen of them carried up 
another load. By this time the weather had improved so much 
that they were able to make the second ascent without getting 

Our weather man, Albert Bitterling, made the following 
observations : 

"From as far down as the Indus valley it was possible to 
observe that the massif of Nanga Parbat was subject to certain 
regular daily phenomena. After mostly slight cloud formations, 
sun, good visibility and a cloud-free summit field in the morn- 
ings, heavy convective clouds would appear usually from about 
9.30 onwards which gradually enveloped the mountain massif in 
an altitude of 16,500 to 23,000 feet. The same phenomena were 
observable to the north in the Karakoram in the Rakaposhi- 
Haramosh-Masherbrum Range. Either between 1 and 2 p.m. 


The Approach 

or between 5 and 7 p.m. moisture was precipitated first 
in the form of soft hail, shortly afterwards as snow. These 
periodic downpours were of the character of showers and were 
not copious. A period of bad weather between the 17th and 
22nd May produced nightly snow falls of between 30 to 40 cm, 
but even during these six days there were brief fair spells, 
chiefly in the early morning hours and shortly before sun rise. 

"Temperature conditions within the range of the Base Camp 
weather station at 13,000 feet could be described as almost 
constant. The daily fluctuation averaged 5 C. Sun-radiation 
was considerable and increased in the higher camps, so that, 
for instance, in the ice-fall between Camps I and II, i.e., 
between 14,600 and 17,400 feet any mountaineering work was 
impossible between the hours 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. 

"To sum up: Weather conditions were on the whole reliable 
in the morning until 10 a.m. Disturbances occurred at midday 
and in the evening with some regularity. Whole days of sunshine 
seemed to be exceptions." 

And so the morning came when our interim Base Camp was 
finally evacuated and it was time to bid farewell to the valley. 
Peter went on alone two hours ahead of the main party. He was 
not yet fully acclimatized and was anxious to avoid undue strain. 
We others had been able to adapt ourselves fairly gradually but 
Peter had in the space of one week been transplanted not only 
into a subtropical zone but a subtropical zone at an altitude 
of 13,000 feet. This was one definite disadvantage of the quick 
passage by air. However, by the beginning of June, Peter had 
become fairly well adjusted and when I met him again in the 
second half of June in Camp III he was in really excellent form, 
especially considering that he was already in his fifties. 

On the way up my thoughts were occupied with the transport 
of loads to the first high altitude camps. The most important 
point was to make a well considered selection of absolutely 
essential loads from the many items of our equipment. We also 
had to decide on the best time for setting up the high camps 
which must not be left too late, although there was little fear of 


Nanga Parbat 

this in our case. On the other hand we must not be tempted to 
make a premature start, as with the unstable weather of the 
moment this could involve waste of time and energy. Further- 
more the number of climbers to go up to the highest camps 
must be kept to the absolute minimum consistent with safety, 
for every man up there meant additional transport of food, 
tents, medical supplies, oxygen cylinders, etc. From the 
beginning of June onwards, that is to say within one week of 
our evacuation of the interim camp, the expedition would enter 
into a decisive phase. We were all agreed that an all-out effort 
should be made to conquer the summit at the first attempt, 
which should be made at the end of June or in the first days of 
July. Therefore every detail of the assault would have to be 
planned and prepared in the intervening period so that there 
would be nothing to prevent us from taking full advantage of an 
unexpected spell of good weather when the time came. All 
future decisions would now be taken in a council of four con- 
sisting of Peter Aschenbrenner, Walter Frauenberger, Hans 
Ertl and myself. It was stimulating now that we were actually 
at grips with our task to be able to take decisions and act upon 
them to the best of our knowledge and ability without the 
interference we had had to suffer during the period of prepara- 
tion at home. Every day brought its own responsibilities and 
its own problems to be dealt with, and every day's work 
successfully accomplished in co-operation was one more mile- 
stone on the road to our common achievement. 

We had long since lost all sense of time. Walter Frauenberger 
and I were, I think, the only ones who ever had the day and the 
date firmly fixed in our heads. As far as I was concerned this 
was a direct result of having to write up the expedition's log- 
book every day. At home they would shortly be celebrating 
Whitsun, but I was pretty sure that not one of us would even 
remember it, so completely were we absorbed in the job in hand. 
However, although it seemed the natural thing to ignore the 
calendar, the nearer we got to our objective the more pre- 
occupied I became with dates and times, trying to work out on 
the basis of my study of the meteorological tables for the past 
ten years which few days would be the most propitious for our 


The Approach 

assault. During the three weeks between 5th June and 6th July 
there had usually been at least one period of favourable weather, 
and now all my hopes and the results of the long months of 
planning and preparation were focused on this short span of 
time. So many of our countrymen had died so tragically here 
in the past that Nanga Parbat had become known as the 
Mountain of Terror. The time had come to strike a balance with 
Fate. Surely the gods of Nanga Parbat must now be sated with 
sacrifice? Or were they indifferent to our fears and our 
aspirations? None could tell. 

I was in a pensive mood when I reached Base Camp at about 
4 p.m. having overtaken Kollensperger and Kempter who were 
leading the porters up. Albert Bitterling was already having my 
tent site levelled on the highest point of the moraine mound 
a few yards away from Drexel's grave. His own tent was pitched 
next door. Peter waved a greeting from the rock over on the 
right and below us lay the main site where the larger tents were 
already in place. The evening was spent in that blissful sort of 
fellowship known probably only to mountaineers. Our in- 
defatigable Ertl put in hours over the Primus concocting an 
epicurean potato Schmarrn and when we had also imbibed 
suitably in honour of the achievements of the day, we turned in. 

And so, overjoyed at being at last at Base Camp, 13,000 feet 
up on Nanga Parbat, I slept round into Whitsunday (24th May) 
of 1953 which is a day I shall remember as long as I live. 



The First Assault 

IN THE MORNING the camp was covered in sixteen inches of new 
snow. We had a full day in front of us. The big tent had to be 
made into a store. Peter Aschenbrenner, Fritz Aumann and 
their helpers had nailed together a number of packing-cases 
and erected an excellent row of shelves on which our food 
supplies could be methodically put away. Crates were stacked 
in the centre of the tent to form a table, while smaller cases 
served as chairs. The corner to the left of the entrance became 
our cooking recess. And while some of the Sahibs were still 
busy with their own tents on the moraine mound, the large 
communal tent for the porters was put up on the site below. 
Thus the whole day was given over to an orgy of carpentry, 
unpacking and removing. 

After our midday meal I walked with Albert Bitterling up to 
the memorial pyramid on the moraine of the Ganalo glacier. 
This was presumably erected in 1938 by friends of those who 
had in previous years lost their lives on the mountain. Accord- 
ingly it bore two tablets, one for the 1937 team of the German 
Himalaya Foundation, the other for the dead of 1934. The 
first was richly inscribed and cemented in permanent fashion 
into the stone pyramid. The other appeared to have been an 
afterthought, for it was not an integral part of the memorial 
but was merely propped up against it and bore nothing but the 
bare names of the dead comrades of the 1934 expedition. 

Our domestic activities extended well into the afternoon. 
Fritz Aumann tested out his power unit; the motor roared and 
rattled away and the whole valley reverberated with the 


The First Assault 

uncouth sound. But everything was in order. Another event 
of the day was the arrival of our mail which had been travelling 
along the Indus valley for three weeks. Our own post-bag was 
to leave by mail-runner at three in the morning and at 9 p.m. 
we were all in our tents writing letters by candlelight. It was a 
lovely moonlit night. 

The morning (Monday, 25th May) showed every sign of an 
impending change in the weather. I was out soon after 4 a.m. 
and made my way up to the great moraine mound. I was 
standing on top of it and had just measured 14,745 feet with 
my altimeter, when a medium-sized snow-dust avalanche broke 
away from the ice-fall of the Silver Plateau and thundered down 
right in front of me. It took just on three minutes to drop the 
ten thousand feet before fanning out on the glacier below; then 
it continued away down the Rakhiot valley as a cloud of ice. 
I could feel the blast even where I stood and for a few minutes 
my trouser legs flapped in the breeze. Then all around me was 
still once again. I retraced my steps and arrived back in time 
for camp breakfast. 

This day we planned to get a number of smaller jobs done. 
Fritz Aumann and Albert Bitterling made an inventory of our 
food stocks. The Hunzas manufactured the wooden props 
which were to reinforce the tubular metal tent poles. Peter and 
the three young chaps went over the sleeping-bags, tents and 
crampons to see that all were in order. Fritz levelled out a new 
tent site for himself, assisted by my two orderlies Isa Khan and 
Madi. Meanwhile the weather had further deteriorated and the 
peaks encircling the Rakhiot valley Buldar Peak, Chongra 
Peak, Rakhiot Peak and the peaks of Nanga Parbat itself 
were wrapped in dense cloud. Our tents rattled and shook in a 
strong wind. Albert Bitterling, our meteorologist, had predicted 
this change in the weather on the previous morning. In any 
event it would be unwise to begin work on the higher camps too 
soon, as considerable falls of snow could still be expected up to 
the end of May. We decided therefore to continue for the 
moment with the work of preparation and reserve our united 
strength for the setting up of the higher camps until the end of 
the month. 


Nanga Parbat 

On Tuesday, 26th May, it was decided that Camp I 
established that day near the foot of the Great Ice-fall at an 
altitude of 14,745 feet. On Aschenbrenner's advice it was to 
be placed behind a huge rock as a safeguard against avalanches. 
Before setting off on this the next stage of our enterprise we 
all swore a sort of Olympic oath. As leader of the expedition 
I read out the following words which were then repeated by all 
the team : "We pledge ourselves to be honourable contestants in 
the struggle for one of the highest peaks on earth, to respect the 
laws of comradeship, and not to spare ourselves in the attain- 
ment of our high objective, to the glory of mountaineering the 
world over and to the honour of our country." The ceremony, 
which was concluded with a triple Berg Heil, was filmed by 
Hans Ertl. 

The porters were to start off with their loads at 9 a.m. but 
for the second time they went on strike, demanding more 
clothing, still more food, more pay, the issue of spare clothing 
such as extra shirts, socks and underwear, as well as the 
reduction of their loads from 28 to 18 kilogrammes. I immedi- 
ately ordered them to remove all their clothing and other 
equipment and pile it in a heap. I then dismissed them. Five of 
them took to their heels and fled barefoot over the snow back 
to Tato without even waiting for the pay which was due to them. 
They would now rank as deserters in their native villages, but 
obviously they had been scared of the mountain. They had 
enquired more than once if their families would get their clothing 
if they died. Hassan advised me to give the others rather more 
to eat for they could put away vast quantities of food and 
then everything would be in order. They were really like children 
and I made them apologize to me in person before I would take 
them back into the ranks of the high altitude porters. One of 
them was reduced to tears as he fought to overcome his feeling 
of shame. 

The loads had in any case to be rearranged and it was a 
comparatively simple matter to reduce them to the required 
weight in the process. But the demand for more clothing was 


The First Assault 

quite nonsensical for they were accustomed to running around 
the whole time at Base Camp in shirts and underpants and, as 
it turned out, in the high camps too for that matter. Negotiations 
dragged on past midday and then I demanded a decision. 
Eventually nine porters all from the same village as Hassan, 
declared themselves willing to carry up to Camp I. At 2 o'clock 
Otto Kempter and Hermann Kollensperger went ahead with 
Peter to make the trail. The nine porters then proceeded to 
Camp I and later in the afternoon Hermann Buhl and Kuno 
Rainer, who wanted to dig themselves in up there, followed with 
their personal belongings. But once more we were foiled by the 
weather. It began to snow and in the evening everyone was back 
at Base Camp again. 

The young Lambadar, or mayor, of Tato arrived on a visit 
and brought us some eggs. I took the opportunity to ask if he 
could arrange for ten to fifteen Tato men to come up on the 
following day to carry loads at least as far as Camp I. He 
agreed to try and said we should have news from him by 4 p.m. 
on the morrow, Wednesday, 27th May. 

Soon after 7 p.m. everyone had disappeared into the snow- 
covered tents. I stayed up in the large tent until ten writing 
letters of thanks to all the members of the Council and listening 
in on our portable radio. The news came through from Rawal- 
pindi that the American expedition under Houston's leadership 
had arrived at Skardu to tackle the 28,245 feet high Chogori 
(K2), the second highest mountain in the world. It was further 
reported that the German Himalayan expedition was now 
established on the Rakhiot glacier. 

On the morning of Thursday, 28th May, Hans Ertl took his 
smaller film camera up to Camp I and I followed on after some 
time. From the Camp we watched our two Tyrolese comrades, 
Buhl and Rainer, trying to prepare the trail through the Great 
Ice-fall of the Rakhiot glacier, a veritable maze of crevasses. 
It might have been an advantage if we could have directed them 
by signals, as the best way through was often more easily 
discernible through field-glasses from the Camp than it could 


Nanga Parbat 

have been at close quarters. As it was they seemed to be courting 
unnecessary difficulties and losing valuable time. They had 
started at 3.30 a.m. and by about 7 a.m. had worked their way 
up only approximately one- third of the gigantic ice-fall; it 
seemed doubtful whether they would succeed in getting through 
to the site of Camp II near the so-called Lagersporn (or camp 
spur) in one day's work. 

On my way down to Base Camp again I met Albert Bitterling 
ascending with a column of porters. I found on my return that 
Fritz Aumann had got a line of porters on parade in front of 
the store tent and that lighters, field-flasks and boot-cleaning 
equipment were being distributed. Peter had just returned from 
the hunt, empty-handed alas, and he and Walter Frauenberger 
were photographing the parade. This, as usual, was enough to 
send these artless children of nature into fits of merriment but 
we Sahibs remained unaccountably gloomy all day. 

In due course Albert Bitterling reappeared from Camp I 
with the news that Kuno Rainer and Hermann Buhl had given 
up at twelve noon having succeeded in covering only thirteen 
hundred feet of the three thousand feet of the Great Ice-fall and 
had returned to Camp I towards four in the afternoon totally 
exhausted. The condition of the snow had been so bad that it 
had given way in several successive jerks at each step. Our 
spirits, already low, sank to rock-bottom. Our sole comfort 
was that after supper Fritz Aumann at last got his Magneto- 
phone record-player going and we were able to arrange a grand 
gramophone recital: extracts from Tschaikovsky, parts of 
Schubert's Winterreise sung by Schlusnus, some movements from 
Beethoven's Eroica and finally some gay Landler by Freundorfer. 
For an hour or two I was able to forget my worries. 

There was indeed plenty to worry me. My main concern was 
our slow rate of progress. The Sherpas had still not turned up 
and we had only fifteen Hunzas at our disposal. I had been 
promised another fifteen Tato men but so far only two had 

It was my plan that Otto Kempter and Hermann Kollens- 
perger should continue trail-making in the ice-fall on the 
following day, Friday, 29th May, and that on the Saturday 


The First Assault 

Albert Bitterling and Walter Frauenberger should push on 
finally to Camp II. I had all along been very well pleased with 
our progress, but now suddenly I grew restless at the thought 
that the time was slipping by and so little was being accom- 
plished. However, our new thrust was now under way and I 
hoped that we should be able to exploit the good forenoon 
weather to the utmost. 

At 2.30 a.m. on 29th May I roused Otto Kempter and Her- 
mann Kollensperger. They went on sleeping, however, and did 
not finally get away until 6 a.m. Hans Ertl went up soon after 
them as he wanted to photograph the ice-fall. Peter followed 
later and at 8 o'clock the porters set off, led to-day by Fritz 
Aumann. Albert Bitterling and Walter Frauenberger spent the 
whole morning getting their things ready for the high camps. 
Walter Frauenberger was the "Uli Wieland" of 1953; he liked 
to get things organized and was never idle. The crates which 
had been stacked in front of the large tent, earmarked for Camp 
III, were now on their way to Camp I and seven members of 
the team were actually up at Camp I although there was as yet 
not much doing there. And so, for the first time, life in Base 
Camp had subsided a little and it seemed deserted, at any rate 
until the evening came round. 

Meanwhile the men had arrived from Tato and would be 
ready at 5 a.m. next day to start carrying loads up to Camp I. 
That meant that we should soon have an imposing convoy of 
ten Hunzas and twenty Tato men ascending the snow-covered 
slopes of the Great Moraine to the glacier. All the men from the 
Rakhiot valley tackled this three-hour march barefoot. The 
soles of their feet had become so hardened and horny that it 
would probably be some time before the cold would penetrate, 
but even so we shuddered at the sight. 

Before their departure the Hunzas assembled for prayers in 
the space in front of the mess tent. Hassan led the prayers in 
solemn sonorous tones and all those gathered about him were 
devout and reverent in their bearing. There followed Zindabads 
for Pakistan, Germany and Herrligkoffer! 

On the 30th May at 3.30 a.m. our four youngsters (Hermann 
Buhl, Otto Kollensperger and Otto Kempter, led by Kuno 


Nanga Parbat 

had left Camp I to seek by means of laborious trail- 
making, a way through the labyrinthine crevasses of the Rakhiot 
Ice-fall. This time their striving was not in vain. Around midday 
the Hunzas brought a note with them down to Base Camp from 
Camp I to say that our shock troops had made good progress 
and were at 9 a.m. resting at a point about 300 feet below the 
"Vajolet Towers". These so-called Vajolet Towers are sfracs 
about 250 feet high on the first tier of the glacier, the site 
earmarked for Camp II. I further learned from Hans Ertl on 
his return to Base Camp at five in the afternoon, that the four 
lads had pushed on to the Camp II site, had turned back at 
noon after an hour's rest and had arrived back in Camp I at 
4 p.m. They were pretty well done in after their gruelling time 
knee-deep in snow in the glaring heat of the glacier. 

At 3 p.m. we sent the first batch of Hunzas with loads and 
bedding to Camp I. The idea was that they should spend the night 
there and go up to Camp II with the four young ones as early 
as possible on the following morning. They took with them a 
letter from Peter in which he asked the two Tyrolese (Kuno 
Rainer and Hermann Buhl) to stay in Camp I and to go up to 
Camp II with the porters the next day. But while the porters 
were moving up the moraine near the Base Camp they ran into 
Kuno Rainer and Hermann Buhl coming down. On reading 
Peter's letter Rainer turned back while Buhl continued on to 
the Base Camp. Walter Frauenberger thereupon volunteered to 
make up the fourth and v/ent up to Camp I late that same evening. 

In the afternoon we received a consignment of six hundred- 
weight of "ghi" transported from Tato on the backs of some small 
grey donkeys. The little fellows stood outside our encampment, 
waggling their ears as they waited to be relieved of their burdens. 
Then they spent the rest of the day grazing and frolicking around 
the camp. The silence of the mountain world was shattered by 
their noisy braying as they chased each other at the gallop over 
the greensward. 

The "ghi" had now to be weighed off. But how? That was the 
question. Our spring balance was quite unsuited to the purpose. 
The Tato men had brought a pair of scales with them but there 
were no weights. We had to improvize a large weight of roughly 


The First Assault 

ten Sir (1 Sir = approx. 1 Kg.). So we put 88 rupee coins 
corresponding in weight to 1 Sir on one side of the scale and 
used these to weigh stones of appropriate size to make up the 
required weight. After one hour's experimentation on these lines 
we could set about weighing out the "ghi". 

Towards evening there was every sign of another impending 
change in the weather. The wind was coming from the south 
and the next morning was abnormally warm. Heavy mists 
which on the previous day had enveloped the Indus valley were 
creeping up the Rakhiot valley and soon we found ourselves 
in the thick of a full-scale snow storm. 

On the following day, 31st May, Kuno Raioen and Hermann 
Kollensperger stayed up in Camp II while Walter Frauenberger 
took the porters back through the ice-fall to Camp I. The route 
through the ice-fall had now to be made safe for the porters by 
means of rope ladders and fixed lines. During these operations 
Base Camp was able to keep in constant touch with the spear- 
head group by means of the excellent Telefunken walkie-talkie 

Going up from Camp I, the ascent route first led through a 
small but tricky glacier maze. With porters one needed a full 
hour for this comparatively short section. Only after this had 
been negotiated did the trail start to ascend. It led to the right 
and passed close to an avalanche course down which swift 
avalanches of ice plunged from time to time, breaking from a 
relatively short slope. Each time this happened clouds of 
pulverized ice would obscure the sun for minutes on end, and 
any men who happened at the time to be in the ice-fall would 
disappear beneath a crust of ice and would remain huddled and 
invisible while the icy spray, avalanche-driven, swept over them. 
Above this avalanche corner the trail twisted in thirteen serpen- 
tine loops between gigantic green-glinting sfracs through the 
so-called Wintergasse, and ascended steeply to a small plateau 
from whence, after negotiating a few extremely wide crevasses, 
the tents of Camp II came into view right in the middle of the 


Nanga Parbat 

It was on this route which had in many places to be secured 
for the porters by means of fixed ropes, rope-ladders and 
wooden bridges, that the Hunzas received their baptism of fire. 
Here it was that over a period of three weeks our supplies 
travelled up to Camp II on the backs of the Hunzas under 
Albert Bitterling's supervision. 

Glacier movement was so marked here that every day one 
had to reckon with some fresh surprise on the trail. Here would 
yawn a new crevasse, there a sirac would have crumbled, and at 
another point an avalanche would have completely obliterated 
the labour of days past. It was small wonder that the stretch 
between Camps I and II became the bete noir of Sahibs and 
porters alike and that we all heaved a sigh of relief when the 
work of provisioning the high camps was at length completed. 

Camp II, situated at 17,400 feet, that is almost as high as 
Elbrus in the Caucasus, was known to us from previous 
expeditions as being the most dangerous camp on Nanga Parbat. 
It stood amid the semes of the Rakhiot ice-fall with yawning, 
seemingly bottomless crevasses criss-crossing in every direction 
between the tents. It was probably the most impressive and the 
most beautifully situated camp on the mountain. From the site 
it was possible to survey the lower section of the ascent route to 
Camp III. Above the rugged second ice-fall, which obstructed 
the way from the camp to Rakhiot Peak with an impregnable 
rampart of gigantic seracs and crevasses, one had an uninter- 
rupted view over the continuation of the route along the 
westward traverse to Camp IV (21,980 feet) below the pyramid 
of the Rakhiot Peak (23,196 feet) high above, and one could with 
field-glasses follow closely all assaults on and beyond the 
Rakhiot Ice- wall. 

On 2nd June Albert Bitterling was ordered by the Chief of 
the General Staff as he put it in his diary to move up to 
Camp I. He was, on the following morning, to take eight 
porters with loads through the Great Ice-fall to Camp II. As 
things developed Albert was to become Commandant of Camp 
I. With untiring devotion he went altogether sixteen times 
through this labyrinth of crevasses up to Camp II with Hunzas 
who were not always the soul of co-operation. We all realized 


The First Assault 

how vital was Albert Bitterling's contribution to the common 
effort and there is no doubt that much of the credit for our 
ultimate victory must go to him. He stayed in Camp I for the 
whole of June and was able only once to pay a brief visit to 
Camp IV. His work of supervision of transports through the 
Rakhiot Ice-fall began on 3rd June and he made the following 
notes about it: 

"At 3 a.m. Walter got up and prepared breakfast for the 
Hunzas and for me. This took a good hour, during which 
time I was able to lie in. To-day was Walter's rest day. I had 
taken a good rest, for after all we were, here in Camp I, almost 
as high as the Matterhorn. I had still not got used to going to 
bed early, so that I mostly woke up at midnight and would then 
lie awake for a long time. The previous night, therefore, I had 
taken a sleeping tablet to help things along. But at about 2 a.m 
an avalanche had come down from the Ganalo Ridge. The blast 
set the tents flapping and carried eddies of fine snow dust 
along with it. 

"The morning was pleasant but no doubt things would be 
looking different by midday. I left Camp I at 5 a.m. with eight 
Hunzas, traversed the lower part of the ice-fall and emerged 
unscathed from over the wide plateau which lies in the path of 
the avalanches which thunder down the mighty precipices of 
Nanga Parbat's north-east face. Then the trail, already almost 
obliterated, twisted up the 3,000 feet high ice-fall. This ice-fall 
is the south-western arm of the great Rakhiot Ice-fall, which, 
wedged in by the north-eastern spur, comes down against the 
Great Moraine which, in turn, deflects its course towards the 
north-east. Still deeply covered in snow, it may be compared 
with the entrance to the Western Cwm on Mount Everest, 
though I imagine it is not nearly so steep nor so tortured. 
Nevertheless this obstacle presented us with a task both 
strenuous and dangerous before we could gain the extended 
glacier plateau to the north-east of Rakhiot Peak on which 
Camp III was to be established. 

"Slowly we gained height. The Lambadar, leader of our 
whole team of porters, turned out to be an infernal drag. He 
was utterly unsuited to work above Base Camp. His way of 


Nanga Parbat 

climbing and his bearing generally had a demoralizing effect 
on all the other porters. He was the only man to moan about 
the heaviness of his load, about the heat, about the steepness 
of the climb. He would keep moving for only ten minutes at a 
time, and then compel the whole party to stop and rest for 
ten to fifteen minutes, during which time he would eat snow 
or chew tobacco and talk incessantly. For a time I just looked 
on and said nothing. I had already noticed that some of the 
porters resented him, but the position of the Lambadar among 
his compatriots was such that they dare not speak up against 
him; they had in fact to submit to him in spite of his inefficiency 
and idleness. Eventually I got one man who spoke a little English 
to ask him whether he intended to sleep in the snow that night 
instead of in his tent, for that would be the inevitable outcome 
of his everlasting pauses. His response was a face of such 
asinine stupidity that I had to turn away. I wondered whether 
I should detach him from the rope and simply let him wait there 
until our return. But I realized that nothing would suit the 
scoundrel better, and so I pushed on and slowly we sat our way 
up the ice-fall, skirted the crevasses, crossed the snow bridges 
like a trapeze act, and at 10 a.m. reached the entrance to the 
long open ramp which we called the Wintergasse. The weather 
was markedly deteriorating. I tried to urge them on but failed 
to impart any sense of urgency to the Lambadar. He had 
absolutely no idea of the dangers that threatened us out here 
in the open. Nor did he in the least mind making himself 
comfortable and settling down for a good rest on top of a 
thinly covered crevasse. 

"Doggedly, angrily, I pushed ahead. The porters could see 
I was on edge and Hidaya Khan nodded surreptitiously but 
eloquently in the direction of the Lambadar who continued to 
rattle on even while he was on the move. The Gasse or ramp was 
getting steeper and narrower, it was snowing and visibility was 
bad. Another 100 feet and we should be at the declivity which 
was about twenty minutes climb from Camp II. I was climbing 
up the couloir vertically and could see the old trail above me. 
It was getting more and more steep and I was feeling less and 
less happy about it, for the slope was covered eighteen inches 


The First Assault 

deep in new snow and I did not at all like the look of it. I 
decided to strike out leftwards in the direction of two enormous 
ice blocks and either gain the declivity from above by going 
round in a loop between them, or to belay at the foot of the 
upper ice-block and, thus secured, to traverse back into the 
couloir and stamp out a safe trail in the loose snow. I was just 
taking my first steps to the left when Hermann Buhl appeared 
in the dip. He was on his way down to Base Camp to be 
examined by Karl and he called out that he would stamp out a 
trail for us through the couloir. He came down to me and we 
exchanged a few words about what he was going to do and the 
treacherous state of the snow. Then suddenly there was a 
muffled crack the surface of the slope had broken away and 
was sliding down. The movement threw the porters roped below 
me off their balance and down we all went ! 

'Tor a few yards I was able to keep my feet and travelled 
upright until the pull of the rope dragged me down. Our 
involuntary descent was arrested for a moment and I was just 
about to get on my feet when a further tug on the rope sent me 
on my face again. At length our fall came to a halt not far 
from the edge of a steep overhang. Fortunately, owing to the 
narrowness of the couloir, only comparatively little snow had 
been set in motion and I was able to ascertain, much to my 
relief, that we had all stayed on the surface. The porters were 
badly shaken, but I assumed an unruffled calm and Hermann, 
who had come down with us, but standing, carried on as if 
nothing out of the way had happened. This appeared to make 
the right impression and I told the men to deposit their loads 
to the side below the two ice-blocks. The porters were naturally 
in a state of shock after the incident and the backs of some of 
them had been bruised by the sharp corners of the crates they 
were carrying. One could not expect them to go on, but they 
behaved in exemplary fashion. Once the first shock had worn 
off they carried their loads in an orderly manner to the place I 
had indicated; only the lordly Lambadar asked that Hermann 
should take his for him. While the men were recovering their 
breath I stacked up the loads into a tidy pile. 

"It was shortly after 12.30 when the snow-slide had occurred. 


Nanga Parbat 

That meant that we had taken seven and a half hours to get 
here! Walter told me in the evening that the group of porters 
under Isa Khan had covered the route to Camp II in four and a 
half hours. Such were the tempo and tactics of our Lambadar! 
At 1 p.m. we started our slow descent, Hermann going ahead. 
Alim Shah seemed to have suffered most from the spill but he 
kept up with us bravely. Only that crock of a Lambadar, who 
had sprained his right wrist, whimpered and gabbled to himself 
without respite until I told him point blank to keep his mouth 
shut. We had unroped and it. was not until we reached the ice- 
fall near Camp I that I took them all on the line again. It then 
came to light that the Lambadar had lost his sling and carabiner. 
Without a word and quite on his own initiative Kara Beg took 
his carrying rope and secured the venerable elder. On we went 
in heavy driving snow. Then, another halt. The Lambadar must 
adjust his clothing. My patience was now at an end and I let 
fly at him in a torrent of English and broad Bavarian to the 
obvious delight of the onlookers. This outburst remained 
effective for the rest of the descent. We arrived at Camp I 
shortly before 4 p.m. Walter was there to greet us with a refresh- 
ing drink and later there was some substantial soup for me. The 
Hunzas flopped into their tents. At 5 p.m. Peter telephoned to 
say that Walter and the Hunzas must return to Base Camp that 
day. One hour later the last Hunza had gone and I was alone. 
I crept into my tent with a thermos-flask of hot Milo, took half 
a tablet of Phanodorm and sank into blissful slumber. I had 
that day crossed the 17,000 feet line for the first time. 

"The next day (4th June) I was awakened by some hearty 
yodelling. Hans Ertl was there, on the look-out for avalanches 
from the north-east face as subjects for his movie-camera. 
Kuno Rainer and Otto Kempter were up in Camp II. At 9 a.m. 
we signalled to them that they should stay up there. Later on 
we could see them working on the trail to Camp III. The day 
was fair and warm. The Isa Khan group turned up at 10.30 a.m. 
with the large tent which was to go up here at Camp I for the 
porters. Herrligkoflfer also looked in for a short time. Some mail 
had arrived at Base Camp on the previous day but, alas, there 
had been nothing in it for me. At 12 o'clock I got into radio 


The First Assault 

communication with Base Camp to make a few requests. At 
around 2 p.m. the weather changed completely in the space of 
five minutes. Fog spread from the north totally enveloping the 
still sun-drenched landscape and in a moment snow was falling. 
The Hunzas lay in their tents while Albert Sahib (i.e., the writer, 
Bitterling himself) had the honour of preparing their afternoon 
tea on the Primus stove and looking after their well-being 
generally. Walter Frauenberger appeared just before dusk, and 
during the evening I was fortunate enough to get through once 
again to Base Camp by radio telephone. The porters had, as it 
happened, reported to me that they had no chapatis for the 
next day and I had been on the point of sending them back to 
Base Camp for that reason. But I now received strict orders to 
keep the porters up there and after some persuasion they made 
do with crispbread and fish. Then Walter and I remained for 
quite a while at the Primus in the driving snow, preparing 
thermos-flasks of tea for the following day." (Thus far Albert 

On Friday, 5th June, Fritz Aumann with the help of six 
Hunzas pitched the third large communal tent at Camp I. 
It gave shelter to all the porters and inside it they could comfort- 
ably cook, work and dry their clothing. At the same time there 
was plenty of room for twelve of them to lie down. Since the 
Base Camp had become really established the area in front of 
my own tent had been so beautifully laid out under the orders 
of Rhabar Hassan that it almost resembled a Kashmir summer- 
residence. Steps formed an approach, two rocks were arranged 
as a portico, and flowers were trained about the rock table at 
which I worked. 

I was seated here at my typewriter when I saw Fritz Aumann, 
his task at Camp I completed, coming down. He slid down the 
moraine slope on the seat of his trousers, and there he was, 
back in Base Camp. Hans Ertl had seen him coming from his 
look-out point and with his customary alert helpfulness, had 
immediately set about preparing an invigorating drink. 

At 7 a.m. I carried out my medical round in the porters' tent 
and treated a dislocated knee-joint, a torn ligament and a heel 
injury. The Lambadar had a sprained wrist as Albert had 


Nanga Parbat 

reported. During the morning, the two Hermanns (Buhl and 
Kollensperger) after their few days rest in Base Camp, made 
their way up to the high camps once more. They were, in the 
course of the afternoon, to seek a new route through the small 
ice-fall before Camp I. 

On the morning of Saturday, 6th June, the sky was slightly 
overcast and the temperature had risen above freezing point. 
Peter was away early with his gun and came back with a 
partridge. At 7 a.m. Hans Ertl went up to Camp I with Rhabar 
Hassan who was to give the Hunzas another pep talk and exhort 
them to give of their best. He was at the same time to take his 
leave of his men who were to celebrate the most important 
festival in the Moslem calendar, 14th June, the end of the fast 
of Ramazan, in Camp III; Rhabar Hassan himself would 
remain in Base Camp from now on. I had for this great occasion 
ordered several goats from Tato for the Hunzas. They were to 
be slaughtered down below on the Monday and the ready- 
cooked joints would then be carried up to the high camps. 

Peter, Fritz and I had a pleasant, easy day. Peter turned barber 
and gave Fritz a hair-cut, while I spent the whole morning 
sitting on my mattress beneath the sun-canopy in front of my 
tent and writing, writing, writing. . . . 

Buhl and Kollensperger had taken six heavily laden porters 
through the Great Ice-fall to Camp II, and Kollensperger was 
staying on in the camp to await the return of Rainer and 
Kempter who were laying the trail to the future Camp III 
already above the 20,000 feet line. The site of our Camp III 
corresponded to Camp IV of previous expeditions; we were 
obliged to cut out the intermediate camp, formerly Camp III, 
owing to our acute shortage of porters. Buhl went back the 
same day on his own and, the next morning, took another batch 
of twelve porters up to Camp II. He was back by 1 1 a.m. He 
appeared to have got over the altitude sickness which had kept 
him so long in Base Camp under my supervision. But sore 
throats and coughs were to trouble him throughout his time on 
the mountain without, however, affecting his drive. Frauen- 
berger, Kempter and Kollensperger had (on 5th June) settled 
themselves in at Camp II and were now establishing the route 


f ,, 

The First Assault 

to Camp III. On 9th June Bitterling and Buhl took twelve 
porters through the Great Ice-fall. But in spite of these efforts 
and the continuing good weather, no tent had gone up above 
the 20,000 feet line where Camp III was to stand. 

It was my view that we were progressing too slowly and it 
depressed me that hours and even days often went by with little 
or nothing to show for them. I discussed the whole situation 
urgently with the spearhead group and was once more given to 
understand by my comrades that the root of the trouble was the 
shortage of porters. With this in mind I had already got twenty 
Tato men carrying loads and they would remain on the job 
until all stocks destined for the high camps were piled up in 
Camp I. But now we wanted to accelerate the transport over 
the Great Ice-fall to Camp II and then further up to Camp III 
which at 20,180 feet was to be the assault base. As a result of 
these deliberations I sent Rhabar Hassan off to Gilgit to recruit 
a further twelve Hunza porters. As things turned out only four 
of these proved suitable for service in the higher camps and even 
they were lacking in enthusiasm and were not fully effective, 
possibly because they had not had time to become fully 

It was only after Camp III was established that we finally 
heard what had happened to our sorely lamented Sherpas. 
"Tiger" Pasang Dawa Lama had duly set off from Darjeeling 
with his men but they had all been held up at the Pakistani- 
Kashmir frontier. They had waited there literally for weeks 
pending some relaxation of the entry bar. Eventually they had 
been turned back and had had to return home. This was a 
crippling blow indeed. 

On Wednesday, 10th June, Rudolf Rott, the Nanga Parbat 
enthusiast from Augsburg, suddenly turned up in Base Camp. 
He was, in spite of his long journey, still looking immaculate 
and had with him tent, ice-axe and a rucksack weighing 60 
pounds. Why he should have thought it worth while to drag his 
ice-axe all that way was not quite clear. He had hitch-hiked from 
Karachi to Rawalpindi, but he had not been able to get an 
entry visa for the Chilas region. Off his own bat, he had set out 
to travel the length of the Kaghan valley and to cross the Babusar 


Nanga Parbat 

Pass on foot and by jeep. Rott had behind him a similarly 
adventurous hitch-hiking journey from Germany and with his 
arrival at the Base Camp of the expedition he had achieved his 
object. He now wished to stay with us for two weeks. It remained 
for me somehow to fit him into Base Camp life, and although 
some of the team were against this on principle, it seemed to 
me on sober reflection and in the light of the man's quite 
outstanding achievement, that we could not simply let him pitch 
his tent nearby and then proceed to ignore him. I therefore gave 
him the chance to make himself useful against his share of food 
and other amenities. One had to admit that a man who had 
crossed the Babusar Pass and made his way up here with 60 
pounds on his back had, to say the least, given testimony of 
remarkable toughness and we decided, in recognition of this 
feat of endurance, to offer him our hospitality for the rest of 
our time in camp. Afterwards, in any case, he wished to return 
home over the mountains by the land route. He hoped to be in 
Augsburg again by the end of August. 

But the Political Agent from Chilas brought Rott's plans to 
naught and my application for an entry permit dated retro- 
spectively was of no avail as it was held up in the post and did 
not reach Gilgit in time. However, during the time that Rudi 
Rott was able to stay with us he proved himself to be entirely 
unassuming and a thoroughly decent chap. He deputized as 
Base Camp Commandant while Fritz Aumann went up to give 
some urgently needed help in trail-making and in shepherding 
the porters between Camps I and III, and he carried out his 
duties in an utterly satisfactory manner. 

The next day, Thursday, llth June, Peter Aschenbrenner was 
up and out of his tent at the crack of dawn. He had had a 
wakeful night, and after pondering the situation from every 
angle the following plan of action had taken shape in his mind: 
he thought that we should make the fullest use of the prevailing 
good weather, and that our spearhead group (Buhl, Kempter, 
Kollensperger, Rainer) with a few good porters should at once 
set up the higher camps. The advance to the East Arete should 
be forced, conserving the time and energy which otherwise 
would have to be spent on specially preparing the Rakhiot 


The First Assault 

Ice-wall with fixed ropes. On this basis the whole thing could be 
accomplished in eight days. 

Peter forthwith sounded the alarm and Kuno Rainer and 
Otto Kempter, who were staying in Base Camp at the time, 
were dragged from their beds before they realized what was 
happening. They were told to pack up and be off for the high 
camps before noon. The consolidation of Camps II to V would 
be left to the older members of the expedition, who would also 
be responsible for bringing up supplies. Peter Aschenbrenner 
was definitely against taking the route over the Mulde or 
amphitheatre below the Rakhiot Peak in order to reach the 
East Arete as Walter Frauenberger had suggested. Peter had 
in 1932 approached the East Arete through this Firn basin and 
the lurking danger of avalanches there had created an atmo- 
sphere of anxiety and malaise which he well remembered. 
From Camp V (on the East Arete) the assault on the summit 
would follow Erwin Schneider's plan. This had taken shape in 
the course of several discussions in Innsbruck when Schneider, 
veteran of Nanga Parbat, had expounded the idea that the last 
camp should this time be placed in the deepest declivity of the 
East Arete. From that point those two or three climbers who 
were in the best form could set up an intermediate base (tent or 
ice-cave) in the neighbourhood of the Fore-Summit and could 
then, without porters, press on to the summit. 

On Thursday, llth June, the day when Peter Aschenbrenner 
put his plan into action at Base Camp, Walter Frauenberger 
and Hermann Buhl reached the upper terrace of the Rakhiot 
glacier. They at once pitched their tents at an altitude of 
20,340 feet and so laid the foundation of C^rnp III, near the 
scene of the avalanche disaster which overtook the 1937 
expedition at the then Camp IV. From there they paid a visit 
to the South Chongra Peak, 21,155 feet. Walter was obviously 
full of enthusiasm when he wrote of this experience: 

"From the summit of the South Chongra Peak which I had 
reached from Camp III in two and a half hours in splendid 
weather, I glimpsed the main summit for the first time high 
above the East Arete. Its snowy crest shone forth like a divine 
promise, and with humility and reverence I greeted our own 


Nanga Parbat 

Nanga Parbat. That so many of the best German and Austrian 
climbers and their faithful Sherpas were now held fast beneath 
her mantle of ice seemed no longer a matter for resentment, for 
that radiant crown, reaching heavenwards in transcendant 
beauty, rightly commanded the supreme sacrifice. Were we to 
be allowed to penetrate those icy fastnesses and for once to 
set foot upon that other-worldly pinnacle ? 

"I took my field-glasses and scanned the north-east flank of 
Rakhiot Peak, which was now directly facing me, for our route 
to the next camp, impressing every detail of the ascent firmly 
in my memory. 

"The next morning I was there, on the trail upwards. It was 
such splendid weather that we put a message through to the 
lower camps, which were at this moment being systematically 
consolidated, that they should send a few porters up to us to 
accelerate the work of setting up the high camps and that the 
other members of our young assault group should in any case 
join us at once. If the good weather held we might succeed in 
storming the summit. Trail-making over the steep north- 
western glacier slopes between Camps I and III, which were 
deep in loose powdery snow and terraced by ice-falls, was 
admittedly a strenuous business at this early season, but we 
imagined that further up the ridges would have been swept 
comparatively clear by the high winds. Our last swing upwards 
took us too much in the direction of Rakhiot Peak and as a 
result we were confronted with a steep pit;ch rising above a 
broad Bergschrund which called for some meticulous ice- 
technique no light undertaking up here at 22,000 feet with 
our heavily labouring lungs. After several hours' climbing from 
Camp III we were standing in the shallow depression beneath 
the north-east ice-wall of Rakhiot Peak on the site earmarked 
for Camp JV. We were greeted by a gale from the south and 
instead of getting our hoped-for view deep down into the Rupal 
valley we saw only clouds welling up over the ridge obscuring 
also the northern prospect which till then had been quite clear. 
We did not stay long and were soon on our way back again. It 
took us two hours to reach Camp III and we just managed to 
creep into our tents before the storm broke. 


The First Assault 

"This storm was to rage for four days and nights, sweeping 
the high plateau on the Rakhiot glacier. Our two tents were 
almost buried in snow. All dreams of quick conquest were 
shattered in the first night. There was indeed no time for dream- 
ing for we were forced out from our shelter into the whipping 
gale at least every two hours, day and night, to free our tents 
from the mass of snow bearing down on them. We should 
otherwise have risked being crushed by the enormous weight 
which accumulated. One of the tent poles snapped. We repaired 
it in a rough and ready fashion with a ski-stick but the other 
props became more and more bent under the combined pressure 
of snow and wind. Again we used ski-sticks as stays, binding 
them to the poles with our puttees. 

"And so the snow continued to pile higher and higher in the 
little dip where we had dug ourselves in and our tents sank 
deeper and deeper into the cold white waste which cut us off 
from the lower camps. It was inevitable in the circumstances 
that our thoughts should turn to our comrades of 1934 lying 
buried on the ridge between Rakhiot Peak and Silver Crag. 
For all their iron determination they had been no match for the 
mighty blizzards which had raged unabated for days on end 
bringing them slow but certain death. It was natural, too, that 
we should think of our other comrades who, close to our present 
encampment, had been cruelly overwhelmed by an ice avalanche 
during the night of the 13th-14th June, 1937, and were lying 
under the same cover of fresh snow which was threatening to 
engulf us. 

"At length the storm abated; the sun came through and with 
it life once more gained the ascendancy, putting an end to our 
preoccupation with death. Hermann Buhl and I were still busy 
digging out our tents when Aschenbrenner, JRaioer, Kempter 
and Kollensperger arrived on the scene with six porters after a 
strenuous ascent through the deep snow." 

During the night of 12th June the snow which kept Frauen- 
berger and Buhl imprisoned in Camp III piled up to a depth 
of twenty inches. The whole of the following day heavy snow- 
clouds which had come up from the Indus valley were billowing 
against the northern face of the mountain. In between the falls 


Nanga Parbat 

of snow the southern sun beat down mercilessly and created a 
hothouse atmosphere. 

While avalanches were thundering down the North-East 
Flank and obliterating the ascent routes with showers of ice, 
we down in Camp I were occupied in going over and improving 
the trail which zig-zagged through the heavily fissured Great 
Ice-fall. At one point the passage was no longer safe and we had 
to look round for a new way of getting through. But no more 
practicable way could be found than that reconnoitred at the 
outset by Rainer and Buhl and so we had to put the original 
pitch, disagreeable as it was, into commission again, and make 
it passable for the porters by means of a rope-ladder fixed round 
a s&rac. 

The rest of the spearhead group, now headed by Aschen- 
brenner, was marooned in Camp II above the ice-fall vainly 
striving to open up the trails. Aschenbrenner describes their 
isolation during these days : 

"June the 13th was a bad day. Rainer, Kempter, Kollens- 
perger and I were held up at Camp II and straining at the leash 
to get on up to Camp III. During the night our tents had been 
flattened by the weight of the snow. Fortunately it was a little 
brighter in the morning and we were encouraged to see Buhl 
and Frauenberger at work up near the gap before the Rakhiot 
Ice-wall. But visibility lasted only a few minutes, then it snowed 
again. We set off for Camp III, but were obliged to give up after 
only 100 yards. The snow was too loose and too deep and the 
old trail had been completely obliterated. 

"Hans Ertl who had spent the night with us in Camp II now 
tried to track down through the ice-fall towards Camp I with 
Kuno Reiner, to open up the trail so that someone could come 
up from below and bring the badly needed supplies for our 
porters who were threatening to eat us out of house and home. 
But they were soon back with the verdict that the ice-fall was 
absolutely impassable. This was a serious state of affairs. 

"We all felt horribly depressed. It snowed continuously. 
Again and again we were obliged to creep back into our tents. 
At 6.30 p.m. we observed that the barometer was rising. The 
temperature was 1C. below freezing point; a bad sign. 


The First Assault 

"The next day was Sunday, 14th June, the anniversary of the 
avalanche disaster of 1937. At 10 a.m. we were still lying in our 
sleeping-bags. We were well and truly snowed up. Kuno Rainer 
was the first to venture into the open and start digging us out, 
later assisted by the porters. Ertl prepared porridge and fried 
some salami, and the warm food was heartening. We thought 
dreamily of good weather, Munich Bretzel, new bread and fresh 
porters. All the men of the plucky Isa Khan group were badly 
spent as a result of their sustained effort in keeping the loads 
moving between Base Camp and Camps I, II and III and had to 
be sent down to Base Camp for a few days rest. But even when 
they were restored, the outlook would still not be too bright. 
Out of the twenty-two Hunzas we had engaged, only twelve 
had proved to be willing and adaptable. They were loyal, hefty 
and very game, but unlike the Sherpas they could not be 
left to cope with the ice-fall alone. One of us had always to go 
with them. They were, among other things, quite capable of 
taking a rest on the most precarious snow bridges spanning 
yawning crevasses. So far the best of them were Isa Khan, 
Madi, Degin Sha and Hadje Beg. 

"It was painful to have to spend these precious days just 
lying about. Bitterling was resting in Camp I, Fritz Aumann and 
Rott were down in Base Camp. Buhl and Frauenberger were 
obviously marooned in Camp III. Here in Camp II we were 
Rainer, Ertl, Kempter, Kollensperger and I and six porters. 
Up to three days ago the trail had been open right up to the site 
of Camp IV. If the weather improved now, we should need 
another three to four days to put it back into commission again. 
For the moment we were condemned to inactivity. 

"At 4 p.m. it looked a little brighter and everyone set to, to 
dig the tents out once more. We were all feeling restless and 
short-tempered, suffering as we were from lack of air caused by 
the pressure of the snow on the tent sides. The thunder of 
avalanches roared incessantly in our ears, which did little to 
improve matters. 

"At 5.15 p.m. a blue sky suddenly opened up above us and 
everyone emerged from the tents to take photographs, but at 
6.40 p.m. it was snowing again. Four feet of new snow! 


Nanga Parbat 

We began to wonder when we should get away from this 

"The night was damnably cold 14 C. below freezing point. 
The tents we observed with pleasure this augury of good 
weather were thickly covered with hoar frost. But on the 
morning of 15th June visibility was nil, although the snow had 
eased up somewhat. Kollensperger, Kempter and Raingr lost 
no time in setting off to track up towards Camp III. Tfiey sank 
into the snow up to their chests a gruesome spectacle. After 
a while Kempter turned back complaining of severe pains in his 

"Kollensperger and Rainer continued undaunted and indeed 
got through the whole ofthe upper part of the second ice-fall 
until they were in the neighbourhood ofthe old Camp III. They 
were disappointed they were not met, as they might have hoped 
in such desperate snow conditions, by Buhl and Frauenberger 
tracking down in the opposite direction, and they had to turn 
back. We learned the following day why Buhl and Frauenberger 
had not been able to come down: a terrible gale had been 
blowing which had threatened to tear their tents from their 
moorings. They had thought it completely out of the question 
that anybody would attempt to come up from Camp II. 

"Ertl and I tried to track down towards Camp I. We could 
see from where we were that a trail led up from below, but 
thought it impossible that anybody could get through in the 
deep snow. So we returned to Camp II at 12.30 p.m. Three 
porters were dispatched to meet and support Rainer and 
Kollensperger, and all were back by 1 p.m. They had not been 
able to get through. 

"But we got a terrific surprise after all. Towards evening 
Albert Bitterling and Fritz Aumann suddenly appeared in 
Camp II. They had been struggling for ten hours in snow up 
to their armpits and they were all in, but they responded 
comparatively quickly to our ministrations. Tough, determined 
chaps that they were, they had carried up the badly needed 
supplies for the porters. They brought a pathetic piece of news 
with them: Rott had been taken off to Gilgit with a police 
escort as he had crossed the Kashmir border without official 


The First Assault 

permission. Dr. Herrligkoffer had done his best to intervene, 
but without avail. They had also picked up a silly rumour from a 
local broadcasting station to the effect that the Everest expedition 
had failed and that Tensing had struck out on his own ! 

"At 5 p.m. Bitterling and Aumann were due to return to 
Camp I. We gave them a send-off worthy of Olympic champions 
and yodelled after them as they started on their way down. We 
learned on the following day that an avalanche had taken 
them by surprise and had showered them inches deep in ice- 
dust, but they had emerged unscathed. They arrived back at 
Camp I late in the evening, famished and totally exhausted." 

16th June was a glorious day. Trail-making parties went up 
the ice-fall from Camp I, and from Camp II to Camp HI where 
Buhl and Frauenberger were still completely cut off. By 4 a.m. 
Camp I was well astir. Loads for eleven porters had been 
prepared overnight, but in the half-light of dawn it was found 
that some of the Hunzas were missing. The story was that they 
had been taken ill during the night and were confined to their 
tents. These "illnesses" were seldom to be taken seriously 
they were more usually an excuse for taking an extra rest day 
and at 5 a.m., after some straight talking, the full complement 
of porters was at length ready to march off. A climb of five 
hours took them to the day's objective, Camp II. 

I had hurried ahead of the convoy and was warmly received 
by Ertl. When, a few hours later, the porters were seen approach- 
ing, ascending the last rope-ladder and crossing the last crevasse, 
Ertl put his movie camera into action. The column winding its 
laborious way among the towering semes of this gigantic ice-fall 
was certainly something for the record. 

Just before sunset the scene around Camp II with its enormous 
cornices of ice and snow offered a magnificent sight. On the 
few evenings I was to stay there the shadows would lengthen 
across the glacier and our comrades further up in Camp III 
would take to their tents to escape the rapid onset of the cold; 
yet the majestic pinnacles encircling the Rakhiot valley would 
still be sparkling in golden sunlight: Buldar Peak, the 20,000 


Nanga Parbat 

feet peaks of the Chongra group and towards the south Rakhiot 
Peak from which the long^Hra ridge of the East Arete Jed up to 
the South-East Summit, 24,600 feet, the southern horn of the 
Silver Saddle. The night would fall with startling suddenness 
and soon the temperature would have fallen to 15-20 C. below 

It was usual, given normal climbing conditions, for everyone 
to have returned to camp by afternoon and then would begin 
an endless round of cooking, eating and writing. Towards 
evening loads would be prepared for the following day. Then, 
when we had just settled snugly into our down sleeping-bags the 
porters would begin having afterthoughts. The sound of their 
whining voices as they stood in the darkness outside our tents 
in the high camps is unforgettable. 

"Sah'b" a long pause "Sah'b." 

"Yes, what is it?" one of us would mumble testily from his 

"Sah'b, cigarettes." 

"Why the devil couldn't you have thought of them before?" 

This, shouted out in broadest Bavarian and promptly under- 
stood, would disarm the plaintiff and encourage him to reserve 
his request until the following morning. But just as one had 
got comfortably settled again there would be more hoarse 
whispering outside the tent : 

"Sah'b, sugar" or "Sah'b, tea" and so it would go on and on 
for half an hour or so until one could bear it no longer and 
would get up and give them what they wanted. We had tried 
for weeks to get them to put in for their supplies earlier in the 
day but all our admonishments had fallen on stony ground. 
As soon as we had taken to our tents the porters would start 
remembering what they wanted and the monotonous chant 
"Sah'b, cigarettes" which droned outside our tents at nightfall 
was still drumming in our ears even on the voyage home. 

On 16th June, when I had accompanied the convoy through 
the Great Ice-fall, I had met only Ertl in Camp II. The others, 
Aschenbrenner, Rainer, Kollensperger and Kempter, had 
already set off early^to stamp a trail to Camp III where Buhl 
and Frauenberger were still cut off after the previous day's 


The First Assault 

vain attempt, when Rajupigr and Kollensperger had had to turn 
back in deep snow after almost managing to get through. 

Aschenbrenner, in charge of the party, describes the ascent: 

"At 3.50 a.m. we got moving. The temperature was 14 C. 
below zero but it was a clear, starry night. Ertl was to s stay 
behind in Camp II as liaison while I went up with Rainer, 
Kempter and Kollensperger and five porters. The track-making 
of the previous day had been well worth the effort, but we had 
to contend with virgin snow from the site of the former Camp 
III onwards, which was where Rainer and Kollensperger had 
got through to on the previous day. 

"The weather was good, but a terrible gale was blowing 
which increased in ferocity as we gained height. We thought it 
strange that no one was coming down to open up the trail from 
above, but when we had got to within 60 yards of Camp III, 
Frauenberger appeared. He seemed quite dumbfounded to see 
us. He and Buhl were busy digging out their tents which had 
been completely submerged. It was highly unpleasant out in the 
open and in no time our beards were encrusted with ice. One 
could hardly stand upright in the wind. Great banners of snow 
were flying from the crests of Rakhiot Peak and the North-East 
Summit. Obviously a pretty good gale was blowing up there. 

"As, crouching in the wind, I reached Camp III and flopped 
down in the tent, memories suddenly came crowding in. In 
1932, when we first reconnoitred the route up here, it was all 
quite unknown territory to us. In 1934 we christened the 
'Moor's Head' and the 'Silver Saddle'. What happiness to be 
here again, even if this third trip to Nanga Parbat had provoked 
the first serious argument in twenty years of married life. Yes, 
so we had lain in our tents during those disastrous days of 1934, 
in the raging blizzard, powerless to reach Merkl on the East 
Arete and to ward off the inevitable end. 

"When we got into our sleeping-bags Kuno R^jnej and I 
discovered that our feet were freezing. We took it in turns to 
massage each others' but did not succeed in bringing about any 
improvement. The temperature was 14 C. below zero and the 
gale was still blowing with full force. We settled down at 1 1 p.m. 
but Rainer slipped out later on to dig the tents out once more. 


Nanga Parbat 

It promised to be a bad night up here above 20,000 feet and we 
felt as if we should suffocate. We were all, in fact, suffering from 
varying degrees of claustrophobia. 

"When morning ushered in our twenty-second day on the 
mountain we were completely snowed in again. Everyone 
complained of shortness of breath, but not one of us wanted to 
venture outside in the storm. The kitchen tent could simply not 
be seen and had to be dug out. One or two had developed 
hacking coughs and we others nursed them like small children, 
rubbing their chests with hot melted lard. It was clear that the 
youngsters had overtaxed their strength, although Frauenberger 
and Bitterling had done everything to spare them so that they 
would be in good form for the assault on the summit. 

"Frauenberger and Buhl, thinking probably of 1937 (when 
the whole camp with seven climbers and nine Sherpas had been 
buried by an ice avalanche) had placed Camp III too high. 
We now moved it 150 feet lower, to the 1934 site. In this position 
the tents were just as well protected from avalanches but were 
less exposed to the wind. 

"At 8.50 a.m. we spied some climbers coming up and I set 
off to meet them. It was Ertl and KOllensperger with seven 
porters. We learned that Dr. Herrligkoffer and Fritz Aumann 
had yesterday fought their way up the big ice-fall to Camp II. 
This was important news because of our dwindling store of 
porters' provisions. 

"On this same day Rainer, Buhl, Kempter and Frauenberger 
climbed up to the gap near Rakhiot Peak (22,000 feet) roughly 
at the point where Camp V had stood on earlier expeditions, 
to dig an ice cave in preparation for the establishment of Camp 
IV. We had learned from experience that a climber, after a 
strenuous ascent, was often incapable of putting up a tent, and 
it was important for him to have at least a hole protected from 
the wind. The four of them looked thoroughly jaded on their 
return. Buhl complained of a severe sore throat and was 
coughing wretchedly. Kuno Reiner has frost-bites on his feet, 
but would not admit it. Nevertheless both men went up to the 
ice cave again the next day (the 18th) with Frauenberger and 


The First Assault 

"By 3.40 p.m. on the 17th the wind had dropped and it 
was a beautiful day. We could hardly believe it. If the weather 
could only stay like this for a week the youngsters could go to 
it and make their attempt on the summit." (So far Aschen- 

On 18th June the weather once more threatened to change. 
To the east the sun rose above the Chongra group, veiled in 
dense fiery-red haze. At 4.30 a.m. Ertl, Aumann and Kollens- 
perger were leading the way up to Camp III followed by twelve 
porters heavily laden with food supplies. Somewhat later 
Frauenberger, Rainer, Buhl and Kempter were seen to set out 
from Camp III for the ice cave. The morning was so warm and 
so free of wind that it was quite possible to cook out in the open. 
Petrol stoves were humming away in all the- camps as snow was 
melted and hot drinks were prepared to greet any new arrivals. 

Aschenbrenner continues : 

"By 18th June the ice cave at Camp IV was ready. Ertl and 
Aumann had come up to Camp III with twelve porters and had 
at once erected new tents. Camp III was beginning to look like 
a small village. 

"Fritz Aumann, full of activity as usual, took six porters 
down to Camp II where Dr. Herrligkoffer was staying, while I 
selected the six porters who were on the following day (19th 
June) to go up to Camp IV. Buhl, Kollensperger and Kempter 
were then to stay up in the ice cave. They were now in good 
form in spite of their labours that was obvious from the way 
they came down at full gallop but Kuno Rainer was very far 
from well. He was a difficult patient because he would never 
admit to being off colour and always maintained that he would 
be all right 'to-morrow'. 

"Ertl arrived in Camp III with a most impressive item of 
news. The British climbers had conquered Everest. At first we 
were speechless, and then as the news sank in we all experienced 
a wonderful feeling of being driven on by a new impetus. Now 
Nanga Parbat must be ours, and, if possible, without the use of 
oxygen. The news kept us talking for hours. 

"Kuno Rainer became delirious during the night, and I could 
not help thinking of Drexel's death from pneumonia in 1934. 


Nanga Parbat 

Luckily I was able to give him a shot of aureomycin as Herrlig- 
koffer had recommended in such cases and towards morning 
his condition became easier although he was still feverish. This 
camp at an altitude of 20,000 feet was no place for a man in his 

"The night was the coldest so far with a temperature of 22 C. 
below freezing point. Everything was covered in thick hoar frost. 
The porters were wailing like children; some of them had only 
their thin sleeping-bags with them, having left the down bags 
at Camp II. The sun rose at 6.30 and how glad we were to see 

On the morning of that day, 19th June, I set out from Camp 
II for Camp III with friend Aumann and five heavily laden 
Hunzas. Before starting off I had had to have a good talk with 
two of the porters to convince them of the purely imaginary 
nature of their supposed indispositions. They were, as usual, 
making the most of any little ailment to secure an extra day's 

While we were arriving at Camp III and being warmly 
received by Peter Aschenbrenner and Walter Frauenberger, 
the assault group, this time without Rajner, and consisting of 
Buhl, Kollensperger and Kempter with four Hunzas of the 
Madi group, were once again traversing upwards towards 
Camp IV. 

I found Kuno Rainer much better; but it was difficult for 
him to accept the fact that he was badly in need of rest, and he 
insisted on taking part in the common effort again as soon as 

Kollensperger was back again in Camp III with the porters 
at around 2 p.m. ^l^andMK^pter remained above in Camp 
IV in order to prepare the formidable route on the Rakhiot 
Ice- wall for the following day. Kempter writes: 

"In the afternoon we erected a storm-tent, digging it more 
than halfway into the slope. In the evening it was icy cold inside 
our cave, a crack in which was admitting a shocking draught, 
but at least we were well protected from the high wind and 
driving snow which had started up in the course of the after- 


The First Assault 

All through the night to 20th June there had been 25 C. of 
frost in Camp III and even inside the tent the thermometer was 
registering 16 C. below zero. As we lay in our sleeping-bags our 
breath created crystals of ice which formed into a crust upon 
the coverings around our faces. But as usual, Hans Ertl was up 
and pottering around camp at dawn. He boiled water for tea 
and not only concocted a most wonderful breakfast cereal from 
milk, biscuits, sugar and cinnamon, but then proceeded to 
serve it to us personally in our respective tents. He was through- 
out a first-rate comrade on the mountain. Admittedly he was 
always clamouring for more porters to ferry about his heavy 
photographic apparatus and had some differences of opinion 
with Aschenbrenner about the priority of loads, but the acute 
shortage of porters made such arguments inevitable. To-day, 
for instance, out of eighteen porters only seven were fit for work. 
Twelve new Hunzas were expected to arrive in Camp II and it 
was to be hoped that we should not be disappointed. 

For the first time, five porters came up to Camp III from 
Camp II without escort. Bitterling, still in Camp I, was begging 
to be relieved. He had been feeling horribly cut off ever since 
Aumann had gone up to the higher camps. For weeks he had 
been living either entirely alone or in the company only of 
porters, keeping up his invaluable shuttle service through the 
ice-fall and watching over the porters like a nursemaid. To-day 
he was to climb up to Camp II with ten of the new men and was 
due to continue up to Camp III on the following day. Walter 
Frauenberger had taken five porters up to the ice cave at Camp 
IV in the early morning and had been able to watch Buhl and 
Kempter crawling up the Rakhiot Ice-wall like flies. These two 
had not been able to restrain themselves and had had to bag 
their first 23,000 feet peak, namely Rakhiot Peak itself. From 
there they were able to see the main summit for the second time 
and Buhl scanned every detail of it until his eyes nearly started 
out of his head. R^khjot. Peak ? 23JS6_feet, represented the most 
formidable obstacle to be negotiated between Rakhiot glacier 
and the Silver Saddle, the avalanche-threatened 1932 route 
straight up the Mulde having been discarded as being altogether 
too dangerous and depressing. 


Nanga Parbat 

Walter Frauenberger comments in his diary: 

"The great rocky eminence of Rakhiot Peak has to be 
climbed across a steep 800 feet high ice-wall until at last one 
reaches a gap in its North Spur at an altitude of just on 23,000 
feet. The summit structure has then to be circumvented by 
negotiating its almost equally steep and icy west flank to the 
corniced JEast Arete leading up to the South-East Summit of 
Nanga Parbat. 

"In two days of strenuous hard work Buhl and Kempter 
prepared a safe route through the Rakhiot Ice-wall and part 
of the adjoining traverse by means of fixed ropes. They had to 
haul the rope across the ice-wall themselves as the Hunzas had 
refused to make the ascent of the Rakhiot face. As a reward 
for these exertions they treated themselves to an ascent of 
Rakhiot Peak itself, where Buhl was unable to resist climbing 
the extremely difficult needle which soars above the snow summit, 
all of which was indicative of the extreme buoyancy and 
keenness of our two-man assault team. A few yards below the 
Rakhiot Gap they found two carrying frames and some sleeping- 
bags bleached and beaten by sun and storm, relics of some 
earlier expedition." 

In the afternoon Buhl and Kempter again descended the 
Rakhiot Ice-wall to Camp IV and completed the work of the 
morning. Kempter gives the following account: 

"We secured the end of the rope to a protruding rock and 
went back with our hands on the rope, making knots and loops 
at intervals of fifteen feet. From the Gap, at an altitude of just 
on 23,000 feet, we had a magnificent view up to the main 
summit. Below us, at about 20,000 feet, lay a sea of cloud but 
we were being buffeted by a stiff wind. We were in Camp IV 
again by 2.30 p.m. We sealed up the crack in our ice cave but 
it did not seem any less cold. My worst bugbear was my feet 
which were almost perpetually frozen. The only relief I got was 
at night when I was inside my sleeping-bag. No one had come 
up from Camp III to-day. Buhl and I dreamt of the heat in 
Pakistan. Except for Buhl's altitude cough we were quite fit and 
not suffering from any signs of altitude debility." 

In the course of the afternoon of the 20th, thanks to the 





The First Assault 

carelessness of one of the porters, the kitchen tent in Camp III 
went up in flames. This was, of course, quite a serious loss, but 
the mishap had its bright side, for Peter Aschenbrenner now 
decided to have a proper kitchen dug into the ice in which one 
could not only cook but also sit down comfortably. 

Suddenly at midday we heard the sound of an aircraft 
approaching, and a swift silvery white fighter 'plane appeared at 
a height of about 30,000 feet, somewhat above the summit of 
Nanga Parbat. It circled systematically over the area of the 
ascent route and then disappeared again. It was not until later 
that we learned that our progress had been photographed and 
circulated to the world's press through Reuters. 

Ertl wanted to go up to the ice cave at Camp IV to shoot some 
film, but it so happened that the porter who was carrying his 
gear dropped out on the way up and had to return. There was 
quite a row about this. By the evening we were all, every one of 
us, feeling worried and depressed, and owing to the mishap 
with the kitchen tent there was no warm food to be had. 
However, Aschenbrenner said that to his knowledge, snow 
conditions on the mountain had never been better. If only the 
weather would hold. Time was running out and any day the 
weather might break. The shortage of porters was a constant 
anxiety and there was always one dropping out for one reason 
or another. We kept thinking how a few trips with a helicopter 
would have solved all our problems. 

The next day, 21st June, a Sunday, was splendid, with a 
temperature of 23 C. below freezing, according to Aschen- 
brenner ideal summit weather. The new kitchen quarters had 
not yet been prepared and Ertl had to cook in the open with his 
feet still in his sleeping-bag. Kuno Rainer, pioneer of our 
enterprise up to Camp IV, was far from weTE This was a bitter 
blow to him as he had been just living for the final assault. But 
he was determined to go up to Camp IV with Kollensperger. 
Seven Hunzas followed them after an hour. For quite a while 
one could watch them stamping up in formation, resting in 
between times in a line, like sparrows on a telegraph wire. We 
hoped that on the following day the spearhead with the porters 
would be able to establish the final camp, Camp V, on the 



Nanga Parbat 

East Arete itself, but it looked as if our luck was out again; the 
weather changed around midday. The Karakoram Range was 
wrapped in cloud and only the highest peaks, Chogori (K2), 
Masherbrum and Rakaposhi, were visible above them. 

Kempter writes of this glorious Sunday in Camp IV where he 
was with Buhl: 

"We got up at seven. The weather was fine again and it was 
our first almost windless day up here; the sea of clouds still lay 
below. We ascended the Rakhiot Ice-wall once more making 
the lower section safe for the porters. For the first fifty feet of 
the traverse from the Gap to the ridge we were confronted with 
a sheet of smooth ice and Buhl had to apply himself to the 
strenuous business of step-cutting. Then we swung up leftwards 
over a steep slope of hard, compressed snow to Rakhiot Peak. 
After a rest on the summit we dropped down again towards 
the East Arete and from there made the trail to the Moor's 
Head where we left a snow shovel with which to dig an ice cave 
for Camp V later on. At 3.30 p.m. we turned back to the Rakhiot 
Gap. We were covering the very stretch on which Willy Merkl 
had struggled and died in 1934 and our thoughts on this 
produced a curious sensation. We had been on the go all day 
and were tired and hungry when, in the evening, we finally 
reached Camp IV. Reiner and Kollensperger were there with 
three porters who were to carry loads up to Camp V on the 
following day. Ertl had been there too but had gone down again 
to Camp III with four porters as there was not enough sleeping 
equipment available in Camp IV for seven porters. The three 
porters left behind had none of their own food with them and 
so we had to provide for them out of our own already depleted 

"On the following day (Monday, 22nd June) I was up at seven. 
The weather was not too bad, but it was misty and later light 
snow began to fall. Our three porters complained of fatigue. 
They had been unable to eat the unfamiliar food and did not 
therefore feel like work. We pondered for a long time what we 
should do. Buhl was of the opinion that we should carry the 
loads up ourselves, but it was my view that if we did we should 
only be wearing ourselves out at a time when we ought to be 


The First Assault 

conserving our strength for the supreme trial ahead of us. We 
finally decided to wait until another batch of porters came up 
from Camp III, which suited me as I was tired and had a 
headache. In any event there would be little chance of reaching 
the summit with porters like the three who were with us now. 

"Nevertheless, Buhl carried a load to the Rakhiot Gap by 
himself and was back again in four and a half hours. Now, to 
add to our troubles the petrol ran out and we had to try to cook 
with solid fuel. After three hours' trial and tribulation we 
managed to produce some soup with Wurstchen. In the course 
of the afternoon Rainer set off to go down to Camp HI as he 
was still far from well, but he was back again after a short time 
as he had not felt strong enough to make the descent alone. The 
crack in our ice cave had split open again, and there was an 
abominable draught, but I was feeling too apathetic to do 
anything about it." 

During the night of 22nd June almost two feet of new snow 
fell. This meant that all the trail-making up to Camp IV had 
once more been in vain, except for one or two places where the 
wind had cleared the track again. At Camp III snow continued 
to fall and the atmosphere was oppressive. Walter Frauenberger 
and Aumann came up with four porters and porters' provisions, 
and a tin of potatoes for us, a delicacy which helped us to forget 
our cares for a while. Four fine days and then bad weather 
again. It was enough to make even the most optimistic of us 
despair. Everything revolved round the shortage of porters. 
A porter service which could have assured quick consolidation 
of the high camps would have needed three times the funds we 
had had at our disposal. In the evening we were regaled with a 
heavy thunderstorm and the new kitchen which Ertl had built 
was almost crushed. 

On Tuesday, 23rd June, there was more new snow around 
Camp III. All tracks were obliterated. Of the six fit porters three 
were despatched to Camp II to open up the trail for the men 
coming up. It was out of the question to attempt to get to 
Camp IV. As visibility cleared we could see four men coming 
down from far above us. One of them was obviously very weak, 
for he kept falling into the snow and lying where he fell. The 


Nanga Parbat 

weather was treacherous beyond .belief. Two hours previously 
it had been so cold that one could hardly grasp a pencil; now 
at midday the sun suddenly broke through and it became so 
warm that one dare not venture outside the tent without a 

The four men Kuno Rainer and Hermann Kollensperger 
and two porters arrived. The porters were totally exhausted 
and we had never seen Rainer and Kollensperger in such a bad 
state. They said that their stay at Camp IV had been a terrific 
strain, further aggravated by the blizzard, and that the camp 
still needed consolidating. Kuno had not properly recovered 
from his illness and obviously would not be able to partner 
Buhl on the summit assault. It was to be hoped that Kempter 
would prove a good substitute. 

In the afternoon Buhl suddenly came down. He said he was 
bored at Camp IV and anyhow he needed petrol for the Primus 
which was not working properly with solid fuel. He intended 
to return to Camp IV in the evening. He appeared to be in 
excellent form. Later he changed his mind and, although there 
was no spare sleeping-bag, decided to stay the night. The 
evening was spent talking, mainly about Munich Bretzel, new 
bread and fresh vegetables. 

Kempter describes his grim stay in the top camp on the 
previous day: 

"Buhl and I were still lying down when Rainer came into the 
cave and tried to make himself some tea. Tfien he went down 
with the two sick porters to Camp III. After a while Kollens- 
perger appeared and declared that he was going down too as 
there was nothing for him to do up here. Buhl got up with the 
idea of brewing himself some tea and when he failed to get the 
stove going he flew into a rage and announced that he was also 
going down to Camp III to get some petrol. 

"So I was left alone in Camp IV. I got up with the intention 
of clearing the entrance to the cave, but I was alarmed to dis- 
cover how weak I was. I could hardly manage three shovelfuls 
without taking a rest. With enormous effort I made myself a 
drink and ate a few slices of frozen sausage and, gritting my 
teeth, set to work again with the shovel. Then, after resealing 


The First Assault 

the crack in the cave I gathered up all my belongings and moved 
into Rainer's and Kollensperger's tent, where it was not quite 
so cold. For the second day nobody had come up from Camp 
III and I decided that if I felt no better by the morning and if 
no one else turned up, I would go down too." 

The next day, 24th June, all the tracks were opened up along 
the Rakhiot glacier. Bitterling and Aumann battled their way 
through to Camp II with seven porters and arrived there after 
seven gruelling hours. From Camp II Frauenberger got through 
to Camp III with two porters and arrived at 2 p.m. He had had 
to climb in scorching heat and was badly sunburnt; nevertheless 
there was great excitement as always when anyone arrived from 
below. The fact that he brought fresh butter was in itself an 
occasion for celebration. ~ 

Everyone was eating and sleeping satisfactorily; Kuno 
Ratiner alone gave cause for anxiety. He was so determined to 
throw off his illness and regain his strength that he kept dipping 
into the oxygen to try to ease his breathing. He insisted on 
going up to Camp IV the next day. If he found he could not 
manage it he intended to take over the shuttle service through 
the Great Ice-fall and so release Bitterling. 

Kempter came down from Camp IV, but early in the morning 
Buhl took four porters up there. He hoped to tackle the Rakhiot 
Ice-wall once more on the morrow. One of the porters gave up 
in spite of all Buhl's efforts to encourage him to keep going. 
Buhl was tactless enough to express relief when he saw that he 
was only carrying Ertl's film gear! Ertl was furious and the 
inevitable row followed. In the end Ertl shouldered the load 

The next day, 25th June, Buhl tried to take two porters 
through the Rakhiot Ice-wall, but got stuck. The porters were 
afraid. Persuasion was of no avail. They refused to go up the 
steep exposed wall in spite of the fixed ropes. Buhl showed signs 
of dejection for the first time. We all knew only too well how 
badly our youngsters needed rest. All were suffering from 
fatigue from the incessant struggle against bad weather during 
the period of consolidation and through the indescribably 
strenuous work of trail-making which had had to be done 


Nanga Parbat 

over and over again. Frequently too, to keep things moving, 
they had had to act as porters. 

In spite of intense cold Rainer set off with Kollensperger at 
5.30 a.m. to escort three porters, carrying among other things 
the oxygen equipment, to Camp IV, but Rainer had to give up; 
there was absolutely no strength in his limbs. 

In the evening all the youngsters came back to Camp III to 
recuperate. Camp IV was not a fit place for anyone to stay for 
days on end in the weather we were having now. Kuno Rainer 
went on down with seven porters, still confident, in spite of 
advice to descend to Base Camp, that he would be able to 
supervise the transport service through the Great Ice-fall. 

The elimination of Kuno Rainer from the assault group was 
a serious blow to us all. Aschenbrenner too would have to leave 
us soon. It was part of his contract that he should be allowed to 
return to Europe at the beginning of July. Frauenberger was 
then to take over the leadership of the climbing team. But first 
of all there was to be an all-out effort to establish Camp V on 
the East Arete with or without porters. If the weather held for 
only five days the first assault could go forward. 

On the following day, 26th June, Rainer continued his 
descent from Camp II to Camp I. Aschenbrenner, before taking 
leave of Nanga Parbat, wanted to visit Camp IV. He writes : 

"Of the nine porters in Camp III only five could be persuaded 
to carry loads up to Camp IV and they took seven and a half 
hours over it. Three were prepared to stay above, but had to go 
down again in the afternoon because they fell sick. This meant 
that the climbers would have to carry all the loads to the East 
Arete. Ertl declared himself ready, if necessary, to carry loads 
across the wall in the supreme effort to establishjgauif) V. on 
the East Arete. 

"I was appalled at the state of Camp IV. All the tents were 
filled with snow and a Bergschrund had opened below the site, 
in which one was very liable to lose things and which caused a 
terrible draught of bitterly cold air. I really wondered how the 
youngsters had been able to stick it out there." 

Aschenbrenner returned to Camp III as the beginning of his 
final descent and return home. There he met Frauenberger and 


The First Assault 

handed over the leadership. Frauenberger also wished to support 
the assault himself to replace Kuno^Rainer. 

The evening turned windy and cloudy. It looked as if the 
weather was once more deteriorating and we all watched it 

On his way down to Base Camp Aschenbrenner met the 
indomitable Kuno Rainer taking porters through the ice-fall to 
Camp II in order to supply the high camps with much needed 
petrol. He moved with the utmost difficulty and complained 
that he could no longer bend his right leg. In spite of all this he 
saw his task through to the bitter end and escorted his men 
right up to Camp III. With this batch of loads the provisioning 
of Camp III was completed and no further transports were 
necessary. When Kuno Rainer returned to Base Camp he was 
suffering increasingly frequent and severe attacks of pain in his 
leg and was badly depressed at his inability to share in the 
assault. I diagnosed phlebitis. Thus Kuno Rainer, Buhl's 
natural partner, was obliged to spend the crucial days of the 
expedition in Base Camp. The sympathy of all of us went out 
to him. Buhl, meanwhile, had not entirely shaken off his cough 
but was continuing to go all out, not sparing himself. Kollens- 
perger was out of action with severe toothache. 

On the eve of the 27th June, the day on which all available 
climbers were to join in one concerted effort, the sky assumed 
an aspect of mystic foreboding I can think of no other way of 
describing it. While the Rakhiot valley lay in deepest shadow 
and the mountain-sides were lightly swathed in a fine veil of 
mist, the peaks encircling the Rakhiot valley were illumined 
in intense and dazzling silver. As layers of mist, flooded in 
pale moonlight the moon itself was not visible crowded 
around the flanks of the Silver Saddle, our thoughts sought the 
summit, which, though concealed from our gaze, lived all the 
more vividly in our imaginations, lifting its snowy crest above 
the enchanted landscape of Kashmir. Would the assault party, 
in the few days which still remained before the breaking of the 
monsoon, succeed in their attack on the last bulwark of this 
stronghold of rock and ice or should we too have to capitulate 
and give thanks that the whole team had returned intact? Most 


Nanga Parbat 

of us were still confident in victory, and even the natives in 
Gilgit had told us that Nanga Parbat would be sleeping and that 
we had therefore picked the best possible time for our attempt. 
They had made no such happy predictions for the Americans 
who were on their way to the Karakoram. How did one account 
for this ? Could it be that these people of the Orient possessed 
a sixth sense denied to us over-civilized Europeans? 

On the following day we in Base Camp were able to observe 
a group of four men moving up the west flank of the main ridge 
between the Chongra Group and Rakhiot Peak to Camp IV. 
They were Frauenberger and the three youngsters (Buhl, 
Kempter, Kollensperger). Unfortunately there was every 
indication that the monsoon was about to break.* Indeed, in 
the course of the afternoon, heavy, snow-laden clouds were 
already reaching the area. 

Low barometric pressure new snow monsoon but never- 
theless an assault on the summit! Surely this could only be 
one last gesture of defiance against the overwhelming forces of 
nature. So it was in 1934 when Willy Merkl and his men dared 
an advance to the East Arete in late August, and so it would be 
with our friends on 28th June, 1953. Hermann Kollensperger 
wrote as follows : 

"I slept tolerably well during the night though I had to take 
a tablet now and then to allay the toothache which was bother- 
ing me. I got up at seven as it was my turn to call the others. 
Melting snow was a time-consuming business, to say nothing 
of the petrol, and it was a good hour before I had a small 
kettleful of water. Having got this far I succeeded in knocking 
the whole lot over awkwardness of movement seems to be one 
of the concomitants of high altitude activity and I had to start 
the whole procedure over again. Finally, at 9 a.m. I was able 
to inform my comrades that I had a hot drink ready for them. 
While we were still partaking of our modest breakfast the 
weather began visibly to deteriorate. Dense layers of mist 
gathered around the ridge and visibility in the direction of the 
main summit reduced rapidly. Nevertheless we intended to 
attempt the ascent. 

*See footnote on p. 107 


The First Assault 

"We waited for the time being on the assumption that porters 
would be coming up from Camp III who could then support 
our advance. We hung about in vain until nearly 12 o'clock and 
then had to tackle the ice-wall without porters just the same. 
We intended to-day as a final effort to carry up the stuff for 
Hermann Buhl and Otto, and dig a snow cave for them on the 
Moor's Head. Then on the following day these two would 
make an attempt on the summit. We made the steep ascent of 
the Rakhiot Ice-wall which Buhl and Kempter had already 
secured with fixed ropes. Now and again the loose new snow 
would break away and a great slab would travel downwards. 
It was 3 p.m. when we reached the gap in the Rakhiot North 
Spur; the mist was thickening and it was already snowing 
lightly. The subsequent traverse of the Rakhiot west flank was 
rather tricky as the rocks were partially glazed but there was 
quite a good snow-covered stretch upon which our feet could 
get a firm grip. Then our progress was once again obstructed by 
a steep ice-covered protuberance of solid nve. Buhl recon- 
noitred for some alternative way through and, cutting steps as 
he went, he soon disappeared from sight. Further on he found 
good snow again. We now threw a rope across the offending 
obstacle; Kempter negotiated it and then it was my turn. I was 
halfway over when I slipped slightly and suddenly lost my 
balance. Automatically I gripped hard on the rope, one of the 
belaying ice-axes was prised loose and I fell about thirty feet. 
Fortunately Buhl kept a firm hold on the second ice-axe and so 
I was able to save myself. I quickly pulled myself together it 
had been quite a nasty moment and we carried on with the 
Rakhiot traverse. Meanwhile the mist had developed into a 
dense fog and it was snowing heavily. Otto stopped dead in his 
tracks and said he thought it was foolhardy to go on. There was 
absolutely no chance that the weather would improve and in 
any case there was far too much snow about. Furthermore we 
had to bear in mind the fact that it was already 5.30 p.m. and 
we had to get back to Camp IV. Walter and I were inclined to 
agree with him, but Buhl was reluctant to accept the position. 
However, he finally had to admit that it was pointless to try 
to rush the summit in the present highly unfavourable conditions 


Nanga Parbat 

and we retraced our steps over the traverse to the gap and then 
down the ice-wall by way of the fixed rope. We were just about 
at the end of our tether and were much relieved when, in dark- 
ness, we finally reached the tents of Camp IV. It was not until 
we were inside our sleeping-bags and had had a good draught 
of Munich Lowenbrau that we began to feel more like ourselves 

Such was the outcome of the first assault. 

On 29th June the weather around Nanga Parbat was indubit- 
ably bad, and our morale was proportionately low. We were 
all convinced that the monsoon had overtaken us. Only Buhl was 
still keen on bringing home some success for the sake of prestige, 
such as an ascent to the Silver Saddle or to the Fore-Summit. 

Our young spearhead group had now been hard at it for weeks 
and were naturally feeling the strain ; it was not to be wondered 
at that the foul weather which had now descended on us should 
have depressed them badly and taken some of the heart out of 
them. Furthermore, Kuno Rainer, who until his illness had been 
the toughest of the lot and always in the vanguard, had now 
been laid up in Base Camp for days applying compresses to his 
bad leg, hoping against hope to be able to render service once 
again. Walter Frauenberger was also feeling under the weather, 
although he managed to remain his usual cheerful self. He 
alternated between Camps III and IV working hard to keep 
things going, but he maintained that most of the porters were 
also badly in need of rest. 

At the same time none of us, Base Camp or Assault Group, 
had actually given up hope and we now set about working out 
a new plan of attack which would have regard to the jaded 
condition of the team and the imminence of the monsoon. The 
idea was that the whole team should first recuperate at Base 
Camp in preparation for the second assault which would then 
be launched with renewed vigour. Aumann, Bitterling and those 
porters who were fit for work refurbished Camp I and checked 
over the stores deposited there. One of the large tents was 
sub-divided and ladders were constructed and carried up to 
bridge the crevasses below Camp II which were yawning ever 
wider and becoming more and more dangerous. 


The First Assault 

On the evening of 29th June some of the porters of the Isa 
Khan group who happened to be in Base Camp, undertook 
against an additional payment of ten rupees a time to carry 
loads over the Rakhiot Ice-wall to the Moor's Head. Although 
there was always the possibility that they would back out at 
the last moment, we allowed ourselves to be somewhat cheered 
at the prospect. 

Hans Ertl, now supporting the assault team, wrote me the 
following letter on 29th June, i.e., the day after the unsuccessful 
attempt, the outcome of which Ertl still did not know: 

"Dear Karl, 

"In spite of driving snow three porters have just come up 
from Camp II with mail, porters' provisions and radio 
equipment. Bitterling left us yesterday morning and you will 
by now have had all the news from him, so I will stick to 
essentials. Yesterday Buhl, Kempter, Frauenberger and 
Kollensperger set out from Camp IV Ton Rakhiot Peak) to 
try to establish Camp V. I could see them performing on the 
rope with only light loads and imagine (wrongly as it turned 
out later) that they have now fitted out Camp V with the 
first essentials and are back again in Camp IV. It has been 
snowing here without a break ever since yesterday afternoon. 
It is the typical monsoon snow, which quickly shrivels away 
again. ... In spite of the breaking of the monsoon I do not 
consider the position to be quite hopeless. We shall have to 
be patient for a few more days. . . . But we must see this 
thing through to the bitter end now in spite of the monsoon 
and whatever the cost. I'm sure we shall bring it off even if 
it takes longer than we bargained for. ... It is to be hoped 
that Kuno's condition will improve. . . . I advise a change of 
tactics: there should be no impetuous all-out dash for the 
summit but a steady well-considered build-up from camp 
to camp." 

In such manner did we try to bolster up each other's morale. 



The Turning Point 

THE MORNING of 30th June was a memorable one, for it ushered 
in something that none of us thought possible a sudden and 
complete change in the weather. The sky was swept clear of 
cloud as if by magic. The hygrometer sank to 50 % humidity, 
and in the course of the next few days dropped even further to 
25 %. None of us dreamed that this brilliantly beautiful weather 
was to last for a whole fortnight. 

I will quote what Walter Frauenberger had to say about 
events during the two glorious days which followed : 

"Hermann Kollensperger had gone down to Base Camp as 
he had never fully recovered from his exhaustion following the 
first assault and was suffering badly from toothache. The four 
of us who remained, Ertl, Buhl, Kempter and I, received the 
command from headquarters that we were all to descend at 
once without fail; the monsoon had come and everyone needed 
a rest in Base Camp. But at noon there was a clear sky again 
and we insisted on remaining up in Camp III to see how the 
weather would be on the following day. But the order from 
Base Camp was renewed: we must descend at once. After a 
few exchanges through the walkie-talkie apparatus we were 
able to convince headquarters that we were still in good form 
and that if the improved weather held, our imminent assault 
had good prospects of success. We were all feeling wildly 
enthusiastic, partly because of the splendid weather which the 
evening brought, partly because we wanted in any event to 
convince headquarters of our point of view." 

There was great satisfaction at the excellent performance of 


The Turning Point 

our radio connection between Base Camp and Camp III. 
Voices could be heard as distinctly as over a metropolitan 
telephone line. Frauenberger continues his report on 1st July: 

"The splendid weather, notwithstanding the very consider- 
able danger of avalanches, encouraged us to make the ascent to 
Camp IV with the three best Hunzas: Ali Madad, Hadje Beg 
and Hidaya Khan. Kempter stayed behind in Camp III with 
the porter Madi and planned to join us the following day. We 
were able to keep in constant touch with Base Camp throughout 
the ascent. Arrived in Camp IV, I made it my business to look 
after the Hunzas: I fitted them out with crampons, made tea 
for them, and talked to them all the time to gain their confidence. 
For to-morrow would be decisive. If we could coax the porters 
across the Rakhiot Ice-wall (to be prepared by Buhl and Ertl 
the same afternoon) the assault could begin within two days. 
But if we failed to get them across, as had happened so often 
before, then we should have to admit to being beaten once and 
for all. 

"Camp IV was completely snowed in. One could just about 
see the pointed gable ends of our tents but the porters' tent was 
no longer visible and we had to probe around for quite a while 
before we found it, its apex eighteen inches below the surface. 
We dug for a whole hour to find the entrance to our ice cave, 
concealed beneath a six-foot snow-drift. We then cleared the 
cave of snow, shifted the porters' tent and dug out the other 
tents. There was thus a great deal of work to be done and each 
one of us plied his shovel with feverish enthusiasm as though 
in search of buried treasure. 

"While everyone was engaged in making up the loads for the 
following day storm tent, Primus, petrol, food, sleeping-bags 
and the other essential things I had another go at the porters. 
I tried gentle persuasion and it proved successful. They 
declared themselves willing to negotiate the ice-wall with us 
on the following day. In spite of promises this was something 
we had not quite dared to expect and we all felt elated. 

"The same afternoon Ertl and Hermann Buhl, armed with 
coils of rope, ascended the Rakhiot Ice- wall and hacked as they 
climbed a most handsome series of steps in the exposed flank 


Nanga Parbat 

which was so dreaded by the porters. By the evening, all of us 
in Camp IV were completely exhausted. It was late when Ertl 
and Buhl returned from their task on the ice-wall and they fell 
straight into their sleeping-bags. 

"Otto Kempter had spent the day in Camp III, eating and 
sleeping, trying to build up his strength again. On the following 
day, 2nd July, while Ertl, Buhl and I were in Camp IV preparing 
with the porters for the impending ascent of the ice-wall, Otto 
Kempter had left Camp III for Camp IV accompanied by the 
porter Madi. He was with us by 8.30 a.m., fit and in good form 

On 2nd July, 1953, Base Camp was more like a military 
hospital. Kuno Rainer was having severe pains in his right leg, 
Hermann ^ollensperger was suffering agonies of toothache 
while Albert Bitterling had acute pharyngitis. Aumann was 
devoting all his energies to the care of his sick comrades while 
the others were deploying in readiness for the second assault. 

From time to time I scanned the heights through our large 
fixed telescope. At just about 1 o'clock I observed at least eight 
men sitting on the Rakhiot Gap at a height of close on 23,000 
feet, that is to say, above the ice-wall. At first I simply could not 
believe my eyes. Then Aumann joined me, Rainer hobbled 
along, and finally Kollensperger and Bitterling came too. We 
were all beside ourselves with joy ! So the Hunzas had managed 
the ice- wall after all! We all realized that this unexpected 
success must have been achieved by some extraordinarily skilful 
negotiating on the part of Walter Frauenberger. 

Later we watched our comrades traversing the Rakhiot West 
Flank, one of them with a cloud on his back, and a short time 
afterwards we saw two porters, secured from above, approaching 
the East Arete. 

Hermann Buhl has told how on 2nd July he and his comrades 
took the four porters through the ice-wall : 

"We set off as soon as Otto Kempter, still quite fresh, 
arrived with Madi, and by 9 a.m. we were all hard at it on the 
ice-wall, Ertl, Frauenberger, Kempter and I, each with one 


The Turning Point 

porter on the rope. We were gratified to observe that the 
Hunzas were working their way up quickly and confidently 
along the fixed ropes. They had apparently soon lost their fear 
of the yawning abyss. Perhaps all their attention was rivetted 
on their feet and the rope and they did not realize how exposed 
was their position on that gigantic wall of ice. On the traverse 
everyone had to wait while I made absolutely certain of our 
safety precautions. Madi had to turn back at the Gap as, owing 
to the enormous size of his feet, Frauenberger had been unable 
to fit him out with crampons. Without a word Frauenberger 
added Madi's load to his own. 

"From here, deep snow led up towards the dip in the East 
Arete near the Moor's Head (23,000 feet) where we treated 
ourselves to a good long rest. The weather was still fine and the 
wind on the ridge was not unbearable." 

On the expedition of 1934 the only one to establish itself 
on the East Arete two camps were put up along the great 
snow ridge: one (VI) nearer Rakhiot Peak, the other, already 
mentioned, beyond the Moor's Head on the Whipped Cream 
Roll (VII). Owing to our porter problem we had to cut out the 
nearer camp. Buhl wanted all along to place our final camp 
(now V) at least on the Whipped Cream Roll or even further so 
as to push the assault base as far up the Arete as possible. Buhl 
continues : 

"Naturally we left nothing untried to get the porters up along 
the ridge. But there was nothing doing. Once we had reached 
the lowest point in the declivity after the Moor's Head they lay 
down on the hard snow and refused to budge another inch. 

"It was in any case getting rather late, so we sent the porters 
back to Camp IV with Frauenberger and Ertl who were waiting 
at the Moor's Head. Otto and I stayed and put up our tent." 

This tent stood in the deepest indentation of the East Arete 
between Rakhiot Peak and the Silver Saddle at an altitude of 
22,640 feet. The summit altitude was 26,660 feet. On the route 
between, a descent had to be made into the Bazhin Gap which 
meant a loss in altitude of some 300 feet. The summit pair had 
therefore to overcome a difference in altitude of altogether 
4,300 feet a point which had been discussed at length with 


Nanga Parbat 

Hans Ertl and Walter Frauenberger on the day before. The 
assault plan was therefore regarded from the outset as being 
one which carried exceptional hazards. The men of the summit 
team, Buhl, Kempter, Ertl and Frauenberger, realized that the 
prevailing weather offered a possibly unique opportunity, one 
in fact that must be grasped at all costs. No one of course had 
any idea that the good weather would hold for so long. 

In the circumstances it was thoroughly understandable that 
the two older men, Hans Ertl and Walter Frauenberger, should 
have encouraged the younger ones to venture upon the assault 
forthwith, without waiting for the establishment of a further 
camp. Hermann Buhl and Otto Kempter were indeed of the 
same mind. 

It was an impressive experience for every man, Sahib or 
Himza, who stood that day on the East Arete. As the gaze 
travelled upward, it was caught and held by the matchless beauty 
of the Silver Saddle and then drawn away again as if by a 
magnet to the awesome, stupendous Rupal precipice. This, the 
most spectacular mountain-face in the world, plunged in one 
unbroken drop of 15,000 feet from the supreme summit of 
Nanga Parbat to the floor of the Rupal valley. 

As the little band filed past the Moor's Head they looked with 
silent grief upon the last resting-place of Willy Merkl and his 
orderly, Gay-Lay. Walter Frauenberger had with him a small 
memorial tablet which he intended later to fix into the black 
rock which marked their grave. 

The incomparable East Arete, swinging its elegant arc up to 
the two proud pinnacles flanking the Silver Saddle, was an 
already familiar sight from the hundreds of photographs that 
had been studied, but nevertheless the reality was breath-taking. 
It was all more massive, more beautiful, more puissant than 
anything that could ever have been imagined. They saw before 
them the traverse below the gleaming rim of the Silver Saddle 
where Willo Welzenbach and Uli Wieland had breathed their 
last. This white withdrawn world was glittering now beneath a 
benign sun, yet every man knew that a snow-storm at this 
altitude could transform all this beauty into a nightmare and 
that they could in a trice find themselves in mortal danger. 



Hermann Buhl's ice-axe on the Summit Firn, flying the Tirol pennant which 
Buhl took back to his club. The Pakistani flag was left there. View down to 
the Silver Plateau with (1) Silver Crag and (2) South-east Summit from which 
the East Arete can be seen leading down. In the background the Karakoram 




Nanga Parbat 

Eventually the sunshine forsook the ridge and immediately it 
became bitterly cold. This is how Otto Kempter writes of the 
hours which followed : 

"It was close on six in the evening and we were still busy 
mooring down our small tent. We had not pitched it actually on 
the ridge but had placed it rather into its flank so as to have some 

"In the light of the setting sun we watched our comrades 
traversing the Rakhiot West Flank with the porters and shouted 
down to them. Then without further delay we crept into our 
tent and I started cooking, first to quench our raging thirsts and 
then to fill the flasks for the following day. It was all very 
difficult in the confined space. At eleven I turned in. Hermann 
Buhl had been lying down in his sleeping-bag since nine, but 
could not get oft' to sleep. The low roof of the tent was pressing 
down on him like a dead weight and finally a storm sprang up 
and raged across the ridge, causing us serious concern. Our tent 
was standing a bare fifteen feet from the edge of the precipice 
and a strong gust could rip it from its moorings and sweep it 
down into the abyss. Finally Hermann got up and secured the 
tent further with ski-sticks and ice-axes. When he had satisfied 
himself that all was well he settled down again and tried to get 
some rest. 

"At around midnight the storm abated somewhat. Hermann 
still could not get to sleep. He told me afterwards that while 
from eleven onwards I had been dead to the world, thoughts of 
the impending ascent had been going round and round in his 
head. However, I had been asleep for barely two hours when 
Hermann roused me. He said it was time to be off. I found it so 
difficult to drag myself up from the well of sleep that I did not 
at once grasp what it was all about. I had after all on the previous 
day first come up from Camp III to Camp IV and then, without 
a break, had gone from Camp IV to Camp V, and climbing at 
this altitude made exceptional demands on one's physical 
reserves. I was now expected to have recovered from this after 
only two hours' rest and to start off at once on the longest and 
most difficult ascent of my life. Who could blame me for feeling 
tired? Still half asleep I told Hermann that we had agreed on a 


The Turning Point 

later hour for getting up, but perhaps one of us was under a 
misapprehension. It was some time before I had fully returned 
to consciousness. . . . 

"Hermann had set off shortly after 2 a.m. By the time I was 
fully dressed and had collected up all my gear it was close on 
three. I followed in Hermann's track along the ridge to the 
Silver Saddle. Conditions were pretty good. Hermann had 
evidently not had much to do in the way of trail-making. 
Gradually a day dawned which promised to be as fair as its 
predecessors. At 8 o'clock I reached the Silver Saddle. Buhl 
was about *hree-quarters of an hour's march ahead of me all 
the way. When I arrived at the plateau I rested and took some 
refreshment, for I was feeling horribly low. When I started off 
again Buhl was already a decent way across the vast Firn 

"Things were beginning to go badly with me. I suddenly felt 
so tired and so utterly enervated that every now and again I 
had to sit down and rest. Moreover the sun was blistering down 
on to the Firn to such an extent that one could have gone 
around in bathing trunks. When I sat down for the third time 
I just fell asleep. 

"It was 9 o'clock when I woke again and found I was feeling 
no better. Meanwhije Buhl had disappeared from sight. I 
decided to wait for him up there on the plateau. 

"I continued to feel so utterly worn out that I lost all initiative 
and, half dreaming, half sleeping, taking a few photographs in 
between times, I spent the rest of the day on the Silver Plateau 
waiting for Hermann. Again and again I peered up at the 
shoulder which led to the summit's crest but I could see no 
sign of Buhl. 

"I wondered what I should do about the food supplies I 
was carrying, particularly Kuno Rainer's bacon which had been 
set aside as the special summit ration. I finally decided to take 
the lot back to Camp V as I knew that Buhl had an adequate 
amount of food with him. In any event where could I have left 
the food ? The immense plateau was well over a mile across and 
consisted of one vast fluted expanse of great frozen undulations. 
It was extremely doubtful if Buhl could ever have found the 


Nanga Parbat 

supplies on his return. I therefore ascended once more to the 
Silver Saddle and made my way down the East Arete." 

The gale which shook the tent on the East Arete during the 
night before the assault, was felt also in Camp IV. Frauenberger 
feared another break in the weather and renewed failure. But 
Ertl, as always the first up, reported at 6 o'clock that both Buhl 
and Kempter could be seen above the "Whipped Cream Roll" 
and were apparently unaffected by the storm. Naturally the two 
men in Camp IV now kept close watch on Buhl's and Kempter's 
further progress. At seven Buhl disappeared in the blue haze 
of the Silver Saddle and Kempter followed at a quarter to eight. 
Ertl and Frauenberger had no telescope and could not hope 
to follow the ascent any further. 

The plan was that Frauenberger and Ertl should take a 
further convoy of porters up to Camp V, carrying among other 
things another tent so that the entire team of climbers could be 
accommodated there. But all the Hunzas declared themselves 
bimar (ill) once again, although they promised to go up to 
Camp V on the following day. In the afternoon Frauenberger 
went up to Camp V alone, to keep in touch with the assault 
team. He spent a long time at the gap on Rakhiot Peak to keep 
a look-out, and very late saw one solitary figure coming down 
from the Silver Saddle. What had happened to the other one ? 

While all this was happening everyone in Base Camp was in 
a state of extreme tension. All of us, with the exception of 
Kuno Rainer, climbed Jiliper Peak under the leadership of Peter 
Aschenbrenner, hoping from that vantage point to have a good 
view of the summit massif, but unfortunately this was not the 
case. We observed, however, that the weather was holding. This 
gave us hope. Kollensperger, who had been ordered down from 
Camp IV for recuperation with the possibility that he and Rainer 
might make a second assault team, demanded to go up at once. 

At 6 p.m. we returned to Base Camp and learned from Rainer 
that Walter Frauenberger had come through with a most 
disquieting message: A single climber had appeared on the 
Silver Saddle shortly after 5 p.m. and was now completing the 
traverse towards the East Arete. It was impossible to see whether 
it was Buhl or Kempter. 


The Turning Point 

At 7 p.m. we heard through the walkie-talkie that it had 
been Kempter. He had staggered into the tent a few minutes 
before and had been looked after by Frauenberger. He reported 
that Buhl's rucksack was lying beyond the Silver Saddle and 
that he had disappeared behind the Diamir depression. He 
assumed that Buhl had reached the summit. 

Why had Kempter returned alone? Where was Buhl? He had 
no tent with him, no sleeping-bag, no food. He knew, as all of 
us knew, that above 26,000 feet one could not survive a night 
in the open. The good weather was some comfort. But the 
question remained. What lay in store for Buhl beyond the 
Diamir depression ? Would he have to pass the night in an ice 
cave? Had he at least his Perlon emergency sleeping-bag with 
him, the one which we all carried in our anoraks ? (As it turned 
out, he had unfortunately and unwisely removed it.) 

During that memorable night of 3rd July we sat up long in 
Base Camp. We had been assured by Hans Ertl and Walter 
Frauenberger that Otto Kempter was safe and well. All our 
anxiety was now focused on Hermann Buhl. We constantly 
reminded ourselves that there was absolutely no doubt as to 
Buhl's technical efficiency. Moreover the weather was singularly 
fine; indeed one might encounter such weather on Nanga Parbat 
only once in a decade. Nevertheless sleep that night was 
impossible. Again and again our thoughts went up to the 
summit like a prayer; somewhere up there in this soft, shimmer- 
ing moon-flooded night our comrade Hermann Buhl, alone but 
on behalf of us all, was engaged in the final combat. 

At length, at 4 a.m. a new day dawned. I left my tent and 
walked up to the moraine mound which commemorated the 
dead of Nanga Parbat. The mighty soaring North-East Flank, 
crowned by the Silver Plateau and North Summit, drew my gaze 
with magnetic force. 

At noon I got through to Hans. He reported from Camp V 
that Otto Kempter was fit and was about to come down with 
three Hunzas to Camp IV. At 5.30 p.m. we were able to observe 
him on the Rakhiot Ice-wall. 

Why on earth then had they not this morning made their way 
up to the Silver Saddle to look for Hermann? It was after all 


Nanga Parbat 

quite possible that after his night in the open he had broken 
down somewhere on the Silver Plateau. A whiff of oxygen and a 
flask of tea might have meant all the difference between life and 

Otto Kempter answered this question a few days later: 

"After spending all day Friday (3rd July) at an altitude of 
23,000 feet I would have been physically incapable of making 
another ascent to the Silver Saddle on the Saturday. The altitude 
has very far-reaching effects on the constitution. In any event, 
Hans Ertl and Walter Frauenberger had every intention of 
taking up oxygen apparatus at the earliest possible moment on 
Sunday morning." 

At the agreed hour of 3 p.m. I again got into communication 
with Walter Frauenberger who said in reply to my urgent 
enquiries : 

"No useful purpose would be served by attempting anything 
at this hour. And there would be no point in going to meet 
Hermann without the oxygen apparatus. Hans and three 
porters have just brought this up from Camp IV and we are 
now getting everything ready for Hans and me to set out for the 

We at Base Camp had decided on the previous evening that 
Fritz Aumann and Hermann Kollensperger should go up 
without delay to support the assault team or, if all had gone 
well, to evacuate the high camps. Hermann Kollensperger had 
actually gone up with porters to Camp I this afternoon. Fritz 
Aumann was all ready to go and was only waiting to hear the 
result of the next communication with Camp V. 

All the time suspense had been growing. I had a long talk 
with Bitterling who had borne a large share of the responsibility 
right up to the launching of the assault. He had come down from 
Camp IV two days before. Our sole topic was Hermann Buhl's 
lone exploit. What we were both thinking but neither dared to 
put into words was that a solo climb on a 26,000 feet peak in 
whatever conditions entailed the greatest risks which a climber, 
even one of Hermann Buhl's calibre, could embrace. Mummery, 
the most illustrious mountaineer of his day, had paid for such a 
solo climb on our own Nanga Parbat with his life. 


The Turning Point 

On the afternoon of 4th July the three climbers up in Camp V, 
Hans Ertl, Walter Frauenberger and Otto Kempter, were also 
plagued by the darkest forebodings. Ever since Kempter's 
return at 7.15 p.m. on the evening before, there had been 
unceasing vigil for Hermann Buhl. In the early morning of 
3rd July Kempter had seen him disappear in the direction of the 
Fore-Summit, a tiny speck in the immensity of the storm-torn 
plateau. Nothing more was known. At 5 p.m. Base Camp again 
got through to Camp V. Nothing had been seen. An oppressive 
silence reigned. 

Meanwhile Ertl had come up once again from Camp IV with 
three porters on his rope. They discussed how best to organize 
the rescue should Hermann Buhl still fail to return that day. 
Again and again their eyes searched the Silver Saddle while the 
hours of early afternoon crept by in slow torment. There was 
nothing to be seen, not a speck, not a spot, not a sign. 

Walter Frauenberger reports : 

"At 5 p.m. we were once again in communication with Base 
Camp. We could offer no reassurance. Then Kempter, Ertl and I 
with the porters went back over the gentle incline up to the 
Moor's Head. Not a word was spoken. This was not only 
because of the anxiety which was gnawing at us all, nor was it 
entirely due to the strain which every movement at this height 

"We were about to perform a short ceremony in honour of 
Willy Merkl, Willo Welzenbach and Uli Wieland, the dead of 
1934. This was something that had been arranged beforehand 
and I had already put the memorial tablet into position. I now 
thought it necessary to get it more firmly embedded into the 
rock. I would attend to this later. The ceremony went ahead. 
The porters at our side understood why we were gathered here in 
silence. Hans Ertl filmed the proceedings and returned to his 
tent. Otto Kempter broke off a few lumps of rock to take down 
to Karl, then with the three Hunzas he went down the other 
side of the ridge to traverse the western flank of Rakhiot Peak 
and descend across the ice-wall to Camp IV. 

"Left alone I was scarcely able to work. It had become 
bitingly cold and the tent below me was already in shadow. My 


Nanga Parbat 

eyes strayed up along the ridge, up to the Silver Saddle, again 
and again. . . . Then. ... I could not believe my eyes. . . . 
I stood quite still to make doubly sure . . . yes, it was true! 
A tiny black dot detached itself from the rocks on the Silver 
Saddle, passed below the rim on the sky-line and was now 
moving on downwards. . . ." 



The Summit 

i WILL NOW quote Hermann Buhl's account of the events of 
3rd July: 

"As I had been quite unable to sleep I was glad when it was 
1 o'clock and time to get up. The storm had abated somewhat 
but it was still pitch-dark. Otto was well tucked into his sleeping- 
bag and seemed oblivious to everything. He did not stir although 
I made a terrific clatter as I rooted around in the tent, brewed 
tea, dressed and packed my rucksack. Several times I urged him 
to get up, but he kept saying that it was too early and that 
yesterday I had said we would rise at 3 o'clock. I reminded him 
that we must make the fullest possible use of the day ahead of 
us and that we should be glad later on of every minute we gained 
now. I added that in any case I should be setting off at two and 
that if he were not ready I should have to go on alone. For the 
time being I packed everything necessary into my own rucksack 
which made it quite a weight. 

"Eventually Otto emerged from his chrysalis. I now thought 
that if I went on ahead and made the trail Otto would easily 
overtake me, and so that I should not have to carry everything 
myself I left some of the stuff behind for him, among other 
things Kuno's bacon, which was to be the summit ration. I was 
later to regret this bitterly. At 2.30 a.m. I crawled out of the 
tent and started on my way. 

"The night was star-lit and the crescent moon threw her 
silvery light along the ridge which stretched away ahead of me. 
It was calm and cold. I put on everything I could. Across a hard 
steep spur of compressed snow I regained the top of the ridge. 


Nanga Parbat 

Here on the spine the going was treacherous. I buckled on my 
crampons and felt able to move with greater freedom. In 
thrilling soaring leaps the ridge rose steeply before me. To the 
right giant snow slopes, broken by icy barriers, plunged to the 
plateau above Camp II; to the left my way was skirted by dark 
rock formations, while beyond the eye was lost in unimaginable 
depths. A biting wind came up from the south and forced me on 
to the Rakhiot side. At the start of the traverse to the Silver 
Saddle I paused for a rest. It was 5 a.m. and behind the Kara- 
koram the sun was rising in golden splendour. Caught in the 
brilliance of the first rays an undulating sea of summits greeted 
me: beautiful Chogori, trapezoidal Masherbrum, the bishop's 
mitre of Rakaposhi, the black granite of the Mustag Tower. 
In the valleys a fine mist hovered, the best of weather portents. 
Blissfully I basked in the early sunshine as I took my morning 
refreshment. Otto was still a good way behind me I estimated 
it at an hour's climb but I never doubted for a moment that 
he would eventually catch up with me. 

"The Firn was hard and in places patches of bare, bluish 
irridescent ice came to the surface. Distances were most 
deceptive. The rocks of Silver Crag stubbornly refused to come 
any nearer and another two hours had passed before I was 
standing on the Silver Saddle, at the edge of the great Firn 
plateau. How often had I dreamed of this moment! 

"My altimeter registered 24,275 feet. So far I had made pretty 
good time. I was not terribly affected by the height. I was having 
to take two breaths for each step. After another short rest I 
continued on my way. The Firn plateau went on for about two 
miles, at first rising gently but later inclining steeply up to the 
Fore-Summit; the difference in height amounted to about 1,500 

"The Firn had been ploughed by the high winds into undula- 
tions three feet high. This meant a perpetual clambering up and 
down which greatly slowed down progress. At 25,000 feet I 
seemed to reach the limit of my capacity. Suddenly my body felt 
paralysed, my lungs could not expand, and every step demanded 
tremendous effort. My pauses for rest became more and more 
frequent, and I was acutely conscious of the thinness of the air. 


The Summit 

"Otto did not seem to be faring any better. It was quite some 
time before I caught sight of his figure on the Silver Saddle 
advancing slowly, silhouetted against the skyline. I saw him 
stop and then sink down. Otto had given up. This in itself was 
more or less immaterial to me but with my tongue parched and 
my stomach rumbling I could not but think of the bacon in 
Otto's rucksack which was now lost to me. 

"On the Silver Plateau the sun was scorching, the air was 
terribly dry and not a breath of wind was stirring. After each 
rest I had to force myself to get up and carry on, so great was 
the temptation to go on lying where I was. The steep rise to the 
Fore-Summit seemed to get not one whit nearer although I had 
now been pegging away for hours. My idea that I should reach 
the summit by midday was completely set at naught. I now 
directed my steps over to the extreme edge of the plateau where 
it dropped away into the southern face. I hoped that a cool 
breeze might be coming up from the south. But here too the 
air was perfectly still. 

"The weight of my rucksack became intolerable and when at 
length I reached the foot of the rise to the Fore-Summit I took it 
off and left it behind. I reckoned on being back there before 
nightfall. I tied my anorak round my waist by the sleeves, 
having first stuffed the summit flag, my camera, spare gloves and 
drinking flask in the pockets. I also stowed away some Pervitin, 
and also Padutin in case of frost-bite, picked up my ice-axe 
and continued on my way. 

"The going was now decidedly easier; the pauses became less 
frequent and, summoning all my will-power I tracked along 
below the Fore-Summit to the right in the direction of a declivity 
between the Fore-Summit and the Diamir depression. Once more 
the distance proved to be greater than it had appeared. I began 
to have doubts whether I should be able to keep going long 
enough, but in any case the Fore-Summit was within my grasp. 
It just missed being in the 26,000 feet class, but anyhow mine 
would be the first ascent. The Pervitin I was carrying gave me 
confidence; I felt I could rely on it in case of emergency. Just 
300 feet below the Fore-Summit I set foot on the above- 
mentioned declivity." 


Nanga Parbat 

Buhl had now reached the highest point hitherto attained. 
This was just about where Aschenbrenner and Schneider had 
stood when in 1934 they had climbed to within 150 feet of the 
Fore-Summit. It was also roughly the point where all possible 
ascent routes converged. Mummery in 1895 had aimed at the 
Bazhin Gap, and the route over the North Summit reconnoitred 
by Harrer, Aufschnaiter, and LobenhofFer in 1939 would also run 
into the Rakhiot route at approximately this point. From this 
juncture Schneider had conjectured that the route to the summit 
continued by a descent to the snowfield below the Bazhin Gap 
and then up the summit shoulder either by a central rib on its 
north-easteri. flank or by a traverse of the main east ridge from 
the Bazhin Gap. Buhl decided to traverse direct from the 
declivity towards the Bazhin Gap and the main east ridge, 
without descending to the snowfield below. His narrative 
continues : 

"My traverse across the rocks to the Bazhin Gap took me 
over snow and ice, deeply terraced and strewn with boulders. It 
was already 2 p.m. A steep rocky ridge crowded with snow 
towers, vertical pitches of sharp-edged granite, badly exposed 
cornices and steep flanks of compressed snow, now lay between 
me and the shoulder. Assessing all these difficulties I remembered 
the Pervitin and took two tablets. I should need every ounce of 
energy and will-power I could muster. I knew that the drug 
would remain effective for only six to seven hours and that I 
must reach some resting place by that time. 

"A steep ridge of compressed snow led to the foot of the rocks. 
At this point the mountain-face plunged in a vertical drop of 
several miles direct from the ridge. Once or twice I looked 
through crevices which had formed between the rock and the 
ice into the gaping void below. Never had I seen such an abyss. 

"I laboured doggedly on from one rise to the next, treating 
every single pitch as an objective in itself. When once more the 
summit revealed itself far above me I simply could not realize 
that that was my ultimate objective. Finally I had to scale a 
thirty-foot overhang which obstructed the access to a couloir 
which in turn led farther up. At the end of the ridge, which was 
in parts very severe, a massive and upright gendarme still barred 


The Summit 

the way. It was impossible to climb over it so I had somehow 
to circumvent it. The rock was very brittle and called for extreme 
care. The last rise before the shoulder consisted of a very steep 
and long slope of hard compressed snow. This presented no 
special problem but it demanded great exertion. With my last 
reserves of energy I managed to work myself up the few feet 
which still separated me from the ridge. At 6 p.m. I stood at 
last on the shoulder at an altitude of about 26,250 feet. 

"I felt that I had reached the limit of my endurance. 

"Naturally, as a climber, I realized that I was now on the last 
lap to the summit. But it might just as well have been any other 
summit in my native Tyrol. This may seem incredible but that 
was how I felt. I was simply not conscious of the fact that I was 
at that moment at grips with our own Nanga Parbat, an 
untrodden peak of over 26,000 feet, the summit to which no 
less than seven expeditions had gone forth, the mountain which 
had claimed so many lives. . . . 

"I took a last gulp of coca-tea which offered some fleeting 
refreshment. Then I traversed into the northern face. Steep and 
rough, a tumbled mass of boulders now led up to the summit, 
still about 300 feet above me. I now left the ski-sticks behind 
and I could do it in no other way scrambled up on all fours.* 
Suddenly I realized that I could go no higher. ... I was on the 

"I was not, I must confess, at the time fully conscious of the 
significance of that moment, nor did I have any feeling of 
elation at my victory. I simply felt relieved to be on top and to 
know that all the sweat and toil of the ascent were behind me. 

"It was about 7 p.m. I at once took the small Tyrolese pennant 
from the pocket of my anorak, tied it to my ice-axe, took a 
photograph and tucked the pennant away again to take back 
to my club. Then I got out the flag of the country whose guests 
we were, Pakistan, fastened it to my ice-axe, changed films and 

* Schneider had given warning that the climb to the shoulder, while quite 
within the bounds of possibility, might well prove to be technically the most 
difficult section of the whole ascent, but had declared that the stretch from the 
shoulder to the summit appeared to be a broad and easy rise negotiable by 
anything from "a handcart to a small motor-car". The experience of Hillary and 
Tensing on Everest was the reverse of Buhl's. The summit was presumed to be 
rocky but they found it was a smooth, gentle, snow-rise. 


Nanga Parbat 

took some more photographs down towards Rakhiot Peak, 
towards the Fore-Summit, the Plateau and the Silver Saddle. My 
eye scanned the three mile drop into the Rupal valley where the 
setting sun was throwing the mighty shadow of the mountain 
on which I stood far out into the land. I looked all round me, 
eastward into the Himalaya, northward to the Karakoram 
with the Pamirs and the Hindukush adjoining further west. 
To the south I could see over and beyond many 16,000 feet peaks. 

"It was 7.10 p.m. when I left the summit pyramid. The sun 
was just disappearing on the horizon, and although the rocks 
still held some of the heat of the day, it immediately became 
very cold. The ridge seemed to me to be too difficult and 
dangerous for the purposes of descent, so I thought of trying 
to get down across the Firn flank facing the Diamir side. 
Unaccountably I had left my ice-axe on the summit so I had 
only the two ski-sticks with which to keep my balance. This 
carelessness might well have proved to be my undoing, for I 
was standing right in the middle of the traverse when suddenly 
my right crampon slipped off my boot. I just managed to grab 
it in time but the strap went overboard. 

"I was left like a stork standing on the smooth hard surface 
on one crampon, supporting myself on the two ski-sticks and 
without an idea as to how I should extricate myself. With 
extreme caution I finally succeeded in reaching some rocky 

"When I had dropped about 450 feet from the summit, night 
suddenly closed in on me. Some distance away I could just see 
the outline of a large rock and I now groped my way towards it. 
Supporting my body against the mountainside which inclined 
at an angle of about 50, I spent the night standing on this rock. 

"I thought longingly of my bivouak equipment which was 
waiting for me in my rucksack at the foot of the Fore-Summit. 
I only had my thin pullover on; my heavy one, the tent-sack and 
my other spare clothing were all in the rucksack. 

"Finally, as Karl had been at great pains to impress on me 
that I should do in case of an emergency bivouak, I took a few 
pills of Padutin. 

"It was 9 p.m. when the darkness forced me to bivouak against 


The Summit 

the mountain, standing on that unsteady chunk of rock. To the 
west the last light of day was gradually being extinguished. My 
rest did me good, even if I was standing all the time. The hours 
passed surprisingly quickly. I dozed, nodding a little now and 
again, then jerking myself upright once more. Then a cold shiver 
would run through me. But it was all quite bearable. The only 
trouble was that my feet gradually lost all feeling, for I could not 
keep them moving sufficiently. It was not until nearly 2 a.m. 
that the moon appeared. Its silvery crescent hung just above 
the summit, lighting up miraculously the slopes of the North and 
Fore-Summits below me and casting its light right over to the 
Bazhin Gap. But I was not in its floodlit path; the flank remained 
in shadow. So I had to go on waiting until dawn should break. 

"As the morning of 4th July approached it became increas- 
ingly cold. On the eastern horizon a pale streak showed in the 
sky. But it was still too dark for climbing and it was not until 
4 a.m. that I was able to continue my descent. I had no feeling 
whatsoever in my feet, my boots were frozen stiff and the 
rubber soles were glazed with ice. All this called for extreme 
care. Every step had to be well considered even where the 
gradient was not particularly steep; the smallest error of 
judgment could have been fatal. 

"If I did only one slight slip in the snow this took so much 
out of me that I needed minutes to collect myself again. After 
overcoming a difficult pitch which once again left me com- 
pletely out of breath I stood at last on the steep iron-hard 
snowfield which led up to the Bazhin Gap. At around midday I 
eventually reached the rocks at the Diamir depression. As these 
offered but very slight hand-holds I took off both pairs of gloves 
and stuffed them in my pockets. When later I went to put them 
on again I found that one pair was missing. I have no idea what 
could have happened to them. 

"Throughout this day I had the feeling that I was not alone, 
that someone was accompanying me. Many times I found 
myself in the act of turning round to address my companion, 
and when I was looking for my gloves he told me that I had 
lost them. It was only when I looked round that I realized that 
I was alone. 


Nanga Parbat 

"The sun beat down without mercy. I took a rest and fell 
asleep for a short time. I awoke feeling ravenously hungry and 
with a raging thirst. I was so absolutely parched that I was 
obsessed with the thought of drinking. Now and again I heard 
voices above me and hoped it might be Hans or Walter coming 
to meet me with a flask of tea. But no one came. I continued to 
drag myself on with what help I could get from the ski-sticks, 
to the Diamir depression which lay about 100 feet up. It 
seemed quite incredible now, that only the day before I had 
been able to climb to the summit. 

"At last I reached the Diamir depression. Before me lay once 
more the vast sweep of the Silver Plateau. I could no longer 
swallow nor speak. Blood-stained slaver oozed from my 
mouth. I longed to get at my rucksack, for hunger was torturing 
me no less than thirst. I stumbled about among the hard 
furrows. It was some time before I could locate the rucksack, 
then finally I fell down beside it. I could not swallow dry food, 
but I made myself a wonderfully refreshing concoction of 
Dextro-energen and snow and after a prolonged rest began to 
feel better again. Far away on the Silver Saddle I saw two 
specks. Oh, the joy of it! Someone was coming! I heard voices 
too, calling my name. 

"But what was wrong? The two specks remained static. 
There was no movement in them. Then I realized that they were 
rocks. How bitter, how painful was this disillusion! My rests 
became more and more frequent, the pauses ever longer. I 
would struggle along for twenty or thirty yards then once more 
would I be fettered and held in total collapse. Two to three 
steps demanded ten rapid gasps for breath, then twenty, then 
still more, until eventually I could go on no longer. Then would 
follow another long rest, and then the agony would start all 
over again. 

"In this fashion I reached the lowest point of the plateau. I 
was on the very brink of despair as I floundered among the 
petrified waves of this vast expanse of fluted Firn. 

"The counter-gradient to the Silver Saddle seemed endless. I 
now resorted once more to Pervitin. Whatever reserves of energy 
were left must now be mobilized, otherwise I should be finished. 


Camp III on the of the Pirn feet) 

On the eve of 

the final assault. 
Camp IV almost 
buried In new 
snow; the Stiver 
Saddle in the 


Stracs in the Rakhiot Glacier often called for meticulous ice-craft. There was 

no way round this tower of ice and it eventually had to be negotiated by means 

of a fixed rope. A rope ladder was later put in position for the heavily laden 

Hunza porters 

The Summit 

"At 5.30 p.m. I stood at last on the Silver Saddle and, 
looking down, saw two men standing near the Moor's Head. 
The sight of them gave me fresh impetus and as though buoyed 
up anew by some secret force I went ahead with greater ease." 

As Buhl staggered and swayed down the last few feet of the 
ridge he fell into the arms of Hans Ertl who had gone up to 
meet him. He looked aged by twenty years. His face, desiccated 
and deeply lined, bore the imprint of intolerable suffering. 
From his lips fell the words : "Yesterday was the finest day of 
my life." Although torn with grief at the sight of his friend's 
agony, Ertl filmed Buhl's last steps to the tent and so put on 
permanent record the final moments of this unique adventure. 




The Return 

WHEN Walter Frauenberger was convinced that it was Buhl he 
had seen on the Silver Saddle, he roared the good news down 
to Hans Ertl. Otto Kempter, who was just crossing the Rakhiot 
West Flank with three porters, was also informed with a shout, 
and he let forth a whoop of delight. Frauenberger's diary 
continues : 

"The feelings of relief and gladness which at that moment 
filled the three of us indeed the whole six of us, for the porters 
visibly shared our happiness were indescribable. Emotions 
of joy and thankfulness overwhelmed us. I was laughing and 
crying at the same time as I hurried to finish my chiselling, 
constantly glancing upwards. Hermann was coming! I felt as if 
my own child had been snatched from the very jaws of death. 
Whether he had reached the summit or not was at that moment 
a matter of indifference. That he was alive, that he was to be 
restored to our midst, that was all that we could ask. 

"So as to give Hans and Hermann a chance of a good night's 
rest in Camp V, where there were only two sleeping-bags, I 
packed my rucksack and, as the daylight was already beginning 
to fail, decided to start on my way down to Camp IV even before 
Hermann arrived. I asked Hans to greet Hermann for me and to 
let me know, by calling out to me, how he had fared. 

"I stood another moment in the gathering dusk at the Moor's 
Head next to the newly erected memorial tablet. I turned round 
once again and witnessed the reunion between Buhl and Ertl. 
It was shortly after seven. I watched them, deeply moved. 

"I heard the two of them talking while Hans led Hermann to 


The Return 

the tent, and then Hans shouted up something which I did not 
immediately grasp. From where I was standing Hermann 
appeared to be quite fresh, which rather surprised me. Hans 
shouted again and only then did I understand Hermann Buhl 
had come from the summit . . . victory was ours! Once more 
I felt my heart beat furiously and my eyes filled with tears. I 
turned and read again the names inscribed on the tablet which 
we had placed on the Moor's Head: Willy Merkl, Willo 
Welzenbach and Uli Wieland. I communed with the dead. 
After an interval of twenty years their sacred trust had at last 
been fulfilled. 

"As darkness crept up from the Rupal valley, Hans discovered 
me still standing at the Moor's Head not quite in possession of 
myself. He suggested I should come back, we would manage 
somehow. I ran down as quickly as my legs would carry me. 
Hermann looked all in. Gazing deeply into his weary, hollow 
eyes, I embraced him. 

"Hans immediately got down to making hot drinks and 
administering oxygen. Hermann talked incessantly. It appeared 
that he had taken three Pervitin tablets while still on the Firn 
plateau above the Silver Saddle. This had enabled him to come 
down the ridge safely and comparatively quickly, but also 
accounted for his highly over wrought state. There was some- 
thing quite uncanny about his behaviour. 

"It so happened that a few minutes after Hermann Buhl's 
return another walkie-talkie link-up was due and we were able 
to transmit the best news of the whole expedition. Buhl himself 
said a few words to Karl, but he could speak only with the 
greatest difficulty as his throat had been painfully affected by the 
terrible hunger and thirst he had endured. 

"I got busy with his two frost-bitten toes which I massaged 
with ointment until late into the night, and finally Hermann 
fell into a sleep of total exhaustion. He lay between Hans and 
me we ourselves spent the night wide awake and freezing with 
cold and yet indescribably elated. The summit had fallen, its 
victor was safely in our midst and on the morrow we should be 
leaving this world of snow and ice and making our way down 
to the valley. 


Nanga Parbat 

"On waking, Buhl was still very weak and had not completely 
emerged from his delirium, but we managed in the early 
morning to make the descent to Camp IV. 

"Meanwhile Otto Kempter had come up to Camp V again 
with two porters to collect the most valuable items of equip- 
ment, the walkie-talkie instrument and the oxygen apparatus. 
The storm tent on the East Arete was abandoned, an offering 
to the gods of Nanga Parbat who for once had been merciful. 
In the afternoon we all made our way down to Camp III 

At Base Camp everyone was in the greatest good spirits. 
The short bulletin which Hermann Buhl himself had trans- 
mitted immediately after his return on the evening of 4th July had 
brought immense relief after those days of unbearable suspense. 

We talked and talked until late into the night, discussing the 
many factors which had so fortuitously combined to make 
Buhl's lone exploit possible. That a climber in bivouac should 
be granted an almost windless night at an altitude of close on 
26,000 feet was something that would probably never be 
repeated in the history of Himalayan mountaineering. All 
agreed with Albert Bitterling, our "weather wizard", when he 
emphasized the almost miraculous luck which had given us the 
extended spell of good weather. Buhl's solo-climb and his 
bivouac without proper equipment had been entirely dependent 
upon these unusual conditions. But all the luck in the world 
could not detract from his superhuman achievement. 

At about the same hour on the evening of 5th July at which 
the successful assault team came down to Camp III, the 
evacuation squad, consisting of Hermann Kollensperger, Fritz 
Aumann and a few porters, reached Camp II from below. 

Kuno Rainer, whose illness had kept him with us at Base 
Camp all this time, had that day just finished making the 
carrying frame on which he himself was to be conveyed. He had 
insisted on knocking it together himself. 

On 6th July the descending assault team and the ascending 
evacuation squad met between Camps II and III. This was an 
occasion for great rejoicing, after which both teams continued 
on their separate ways. 


The Return 

Although Otto Kempter had evacuated Camp V on 5th July, 
and the evacuation squad had no need to go beyond Camp IV, 
Fritz Aumann went up to the Moor's Head again two days 
later on his own. In the late evening he stood at the graves of 
Willy Merkl and Gay-Lay and in quiet contemplation remem- 
bered the dead in whose name the Expedition of 1953 had been 
launched and brought to a victorious conclusion. 

The assault team arrived back in Base Camp on 7th July 
Hermann Buhl, Walter Frauenberger, Hans Ertl, Otto Kempter 
and the three brave porters who beyond all expectation had 
ventured several times across the exposed Rakhiot Ice-wall. 
After their long stay up in the ice region they were all obviously 
overcome as they stood once more among the luxuriant green 
foothills which surrounded the Base Camp and were welcomed 
with garlands of flowers. 

I at once attended to Hermann Buhl's frost-bitten toes. I 
had been informed of this condition within five minutes of 
Buhl's arrival at Camp V and had offered to come up to Camp 
III on the following day. But Hermann Buhl had been of the 
opinion when I spoke to him over the walkie-talkie that treat- 
ment was not urgently necessary and that he could descend 
without difficulty. Hans Ertl had also confirmed at the same 
time on the evening of 4th July that in his view the frost-bites 
were of a relatively minor degree. This unfortunately was not 

The two frost-bitten toes, namely the first and second of the 
right foot, already showed a clear line of demarcation when I 
examined them on 7th July shortly after the arrival of the 
assault team in Base Camp. I could even at that time predict 
that Hermann Buhl would have to resign himself to the loss of 
half of each of these two toes. The injection of novocaine was 
no longer indicated. By numbing, that is to say, by putting out 
of action the vascular nerves in the right leg it would have been 
possible shortly after the injury occurred to counteract the 
reactive contractions of the blood vessels and to improve 
thereby the blood supply to the injured tissues, but this was 
useless unless done within 24 hours of the contraction of the 
frost-bite. Even if I had been on the spot in Camp V on the 


Nanga Parbat 

evening of 4th July when Buhl returned it might not have been 
possible to save his toes. The danger of putting too great a 
strain on his circulation, with his body excessively weakened 
by altitude debility, would probably have prevented me from 
taking any immediate action. 

I advised Hermann Buhl to hurry ahead with me to Gilgit so 
that he could get hospital treatment there. My advice was not 
due to a lack of medical supplies in the camp. When the assault 
team arrived on 7th July, Albert Bitterling and Kuno Rainer, 
still far from well, were hard at it getting loads ready for final 
dispatch, and a few Tato men were already standing by. But 
nothing so far had actually been removed and it was still possible 
for me to get to the medical supplies and equipment if I needed 

On 14th July the good weather broke at last. The monsoon, 
which in spite of its initial caprices had spared us during the 
decisive days, now broke with full force. When we struck our 
tents the rain came down in torrents and eased up only when 
the long file of porters was moving down towards the swampy 
Fairy Meadow. In Tato we pitched our tents for the last time. 
The following day we descended the stony waste of the Buldar 
Ridge to the Indus valley. 

Hermann Buhl had to be carried all this long way. Kuno 
Rainer, suffering severe pain in his leg and supported on two 
ski-sticks, slowly dragged himself down the steep stony path. 
Nanga Parbat had disappeared from sight. A thick bank of 
cloud enveloped the entire massif, and we were reminded of 
what the porters had said: that the mountain had only been 
sleeping during our assault. The prophecy of the local people in 
Gilgit had, strangely enough, been along the same lines : "The 
mountain god will sleep this time. You will have good fortune." 

When we came to the Indus at the Rakhiot Bridge, I at once 
made use of the telephone connection which had been installed 
there for our benefit and ordered six jeeps. We of the first group 
sat down and rested at the Rakhiot Bridge while we awaited 
the arrival of the vehicles. It was again unbearably hot down 


The Return 

here in the Indus valley, and Aumann, Bitterling, Kempter, 
Kollensperger, Rainer and I were tempted once or twice to take 
a quick dip in the Indus, but Tato men were constantly arriving 
with their loads and there was work to be done. 

We should never have thought it possible that we should 
have further trouble with the porters at this late stage. But they 
did not spare us. The Tato men rebelled because I had agreed 
with the two Lambadars to pay to them in Talichi the whole 
amount due to their men in one lump sum. The sole reason for 
this was that I had with me only treasury notes of large denom- 
ination. The porters were probably afraid that they might not 
get their full wages from their superiors and insisted therefore 
that every single one be paid personally at the Rakhiot Bridge. 
Rhabar Hassan, who defended our original agreement, only just 
escaped being stoned. To appease the porters I dispatched our 
financial expert, Otto Kempter, to the Rakhiot Bridge to pay 
them out before nightfall. He dispensed the bank notes as best 
he could and left it to them to settle up with each other. 

Our drive from Talichi to Gilgit was a great surprise to us 
and gave us a foretaste of what was still in store. Even here in 
this remote secluded mountain valley it resembled a triumphal 
progress. At the edge of every hamlet or settlement whose 
existence we had hardly been aware of on our way out, the 
village band was now posted, and the whole population had 
turned out to greet us. 

Sitting in and on our jeeps we drove slowly and in sheer 
amazement through wildly cheering crowds. "Zindabad Ger- 
many" was the universal greeting. Banners bearing the words 
"Welcome Germans" and even "Herzlichst willkommen" were 
stretched across our path. Shortly before Gilgit a thunder storm 
somewhat damped the general enthusiasm, but when we entered 
the town itself which had acquired such great significance for 
us the fun started in earnest. Waves of jubilation engulfed us. 
All the dignitaries of the town, the army and the Hunza state 
were present as the Political Agent, our good friend from the 
outset, decorated us with fragrant garlands of roses. Here too 
before and after the official reception the bands played and the 
people cheered "Zindabad". 


Nanga Parbat 

The honest delight and pride of my young colleague at the 
Gilgit Hospital that I, a man of his own profession, should have 
led the victorious Nanga Parbat Expedition, were, I thought, 
most charming. I at once entrusted to him the further medical 
care of the hero of the day, Hermann Buhl with, of course, the 
full consent of the patient and his comrades. 

During the next few days we could all relax a little. Tea 
parties were arranged in our honour. In the garden of the 
Political Agent's house a dais was erected and many con- 
gratulatory speeches were made. Along with all these official 
occasions, we were occupied in paying off our Hunza porters, 
with many of whom we were now on close friendly terms. It 
was natural that the closest bond had been forged with those 
four men who had at the crucial period several times covered 
the exposed route to Camp V. We always had them included in 
any celebrations and honours which were arranged for the 
victorious expedition. 

During this time Hermann Buhl and I were the personal 
guests of the Political Agent and occupied a room in his house. 
We had many a long talk together during that period of close 
contact and I felt that our friendship was firmly established. 
Little did I know that it was not to last. 

We all of us flew again from Gilgit to Rawalpindi. The flight 
was as impressive as it had been two months before. We took 
our leave of Nanga Parbat and saluted that dome of ice, 
Chogori. The German colony in Lahore gave us a specially 
warm welcome. I made arrangements for Hermann Buhl to 
travel on by air so that he would not have to endure the long 
train journey to Karachi. 

In Karachi the team was met by a cheering crowd, and on 
the evening of our arrival there the Pakistani Cultural Associa- 
tion presented me with a gold ring to commemorate the 
occasion. Representatives of the Government of Pakistan and 
of the German Embassy also proffered their hearty congratula- 
tions. In the course of the days which followed, during which 
we had to make arrangements for our return journey, a very 
special honour was conferred on the expedition. At a ceremony 
held in the garden of the President's residence, each member of 


*&'W ? 

South wall of the summit massif from Camp IV, looking across the Rakhiot 
North Spur into trie Mulde 

The traverse of the Rakhiot West Flank. The summit massif and ihe precipitous 
south face into the Rupal Valley 

Main summit 

Silver Plateau 

Bazhin Gap 

about 25,500 feet 


Buhl photographed on his return from his successful assault on the summit. His 
face shows the imprint of his sufferings 

The precipitous north-east flank of Nanga Parbat, Silver Crag left, North 
Summit right, the edge of the Silver Plateau in the centre 

The Return 

the expedition was invested by the President of Pakistan with a 
medal specially struck for the occasion. The investiture took 
place beneath a magnificent canopy and in the presence of all 
the heads of the provincial governments and the Ministers of 

After a few days of relaxation in our hotel which was situated 
right on the sea front, we decided to fly home together. Otto 
Kempter, after long deliberation and much obscure calculation, 
was as our treasurer able to sanction this decision. However, 
as the tourist season was at its height it was not possible for us 
to travel as a team. The 'planes flying in from India had at best 
only one or two seats vacant. For a start we were able to get two 
tickets for the KLM 'plane leaving on Thursday, 22nd July. 
One of these had actually been booked for Albert Bitterling but 
he stood down in favour of Hermann Buhl and so the two of 
us (Hermann and I) were the first to be off. 

In Munich a wonderful welcome awaited us. Our patron, the 
Chief Burgomaster, Thomas Wimmer, took the trouble to drive 
out to the airport on three consecutive days to welcome the 
various members of the team as they came in, with flowers and 
giant tankards of Munich Hof brau-beer. At a later ceremony 
we all received from Herr Wimmer a commemorative plaque 
of the City of Munich in recognition of our achievement. 

A few weeks later a singular honour was conferred on the 
expedition. The Geographical Society of Berlin presented the 
Willy Merkl Memorial Expedition with the Ferdinand von 
Richthofen Gold Medal in honour of the first ascent of Nanga 
Parbat on 3rd July, 1953, and in grateful recognition of the 
praiseworthy mountaineering achievements and outstanding 
scientific accomplishments of previous German expeditions to 
Nanga Parbat. 

The Society justified the high award by expressing the 
conviction that Hermann Buhl's magnificent and courageous 
solo climb to the summit was made possible only by the support 
and co-operation of every other man in the team. 



The Aftermath 

EXTRACT FROM the dispatch of 6th August, 1953, from the 
Special Correspondent of the Manchester Guardian in Berlin : 

"There has ... been much adverse comment in the press 
on the cantankerous way in which the climbers (of the 
Nanga Parbat Expedition) have behaved since returning from 
their bold adventure. . . . Conflicting and unfriendly reports 
have led people to believe that the spirit of the climbers left 
something to be desired. So far, however, the reports have 
been contradictory. . . ." 

Although this book is appearing (i.e., in its original German 
version) within a few months of the expedition's return, and is 
in many quarters expected to provide an answer to certain 
publicly made criticisms, I will, nevertheless, make only a few 

On the eve of our departure Sven Hedin wrote from Stock- 
holm to a friend in Munich this letter which may well have 
been one of his last: 

"Many thanks for your kind letter concerning the expedi- 
tion to Nanga Parbat. Unfortunately it often happens that 
such disagreements arise and I too had to contend with them 
on my own expeditions. It came, however, as a surprise to 
me to hear of such negative interferences on the part of certain 
gentlemen who are, after all, quite well known. 

"The most important thing in any common undertaking is 
comradeship, and anyone who declines to identify himself 
with the team spirit automatically excludes himself, 


The Aftermath 

"You may assure the gentlemen of the expedition that my 
warmest good wishes go with them and that I send them every 
blessing for their journey. They will, I am sure, succeed in 
conquering the mountain and I shall be with them in spirit 
on their way. 

"So please tell the leader of the expedition, Dr. Herrlig- 
koffer, that I am still prepared, as I wrote some months ago, 
to act as President of the Council. 

"Though it is nowadays much easier to reach the objective 
of such an enterprise than it was at the time of my first 
expeditions in 1893 and 1895, in the hour of decision man 
can still depend only on himself. For this critical hour I 
wish the expedition wisdom and discretion but also the will 
to attack. 

"With kindest regards to you and with affectionate good 
wishes to every member of the expedition, 

"Yours sincerely, 
"(Signed) SVEN HEDIN" 

When our team left Munich on 17th April, 1953, every 
member of it was determined to forget the difficulties and 
disappointments which had preceded our departure. I, for one, 
who had also been the object of many attacks, was so thoroughly 
relieved that we were at last on our way, that I firmly resolved 
to dwell no more on the unpalatable events of the past few 
months. My comrades, particularly the younger ones, were 
deeply conscious of being privileged to take part in the first 
post-war German expedition and were thrilled at the prospect 
of embarking on the greatest adventure of their lives. Every 
man co-operated well while exposed to the dangers of the quest 
and the rigours of the alien environment, but the team had 
hardly reassembled in Base Camp when the spirit of disunity, 
seemingly inseparable from human nature, was once more 
abroad. The pleasure which we might all so justly have felt, 
was ruined. Of the nine members of the team, six have remained 
my friends. 

While still on our return journey, I called all the comrades 
together to exhort, or rather to ask them to keep the discipline 

Nanga Parbat 

of the team intact. It was of no avail. After our arrival in 
Munich I arranged meetings at my home and with our Patron, 
the Chief Burgomaster. They have achieved only a semblance 
of peace. 

I have never answered in public the attempts which have, 
with the assistance of the press, been made to discredit me, as I 
had no wish to damage the prestige of the expedition and of the 
German climbers by engaging in a public dispute. In a private 
letter, dated 19th August, 1953, circulated to all interested 
parties, I merely made all the relevant facts known. 

In a few years' time anyone who is interested in mountaineer- 
ing will be concerned only with the fact of the German victory 
on Nanga Parbat in 1953 and will contemplate with respect the 
amazing solo climb of Hermann Buhl which, in its daring 
conception and successful outcome, will probably remain 
unique. No one will care to recall the unedifying dispute which 
before and after the enterprise embroiled many German 
climbers and beyond them, the German public as a whole. All 
this will have been forgotten. And those who do not forget will 
be wise enough tolerantly to regard it all as but another 
manifestation of the frailty and imperfection of human nature. 


View towards the north-east summit of Nanga Parbat (Silver Crag) 

The north-east flank of Nanga Parbat 




THE MOST important factor in the equipment of any Himalayan 
expedition is the provision of adequate protection against cold. 
For advice on this question we relied on Peter Aschenbrenner 
as veteran of the 1932 and 1934 expeditions, and he placed all of 
his great knowledge and experience unreservedly at our disposal. 

Unfortunately there was little time or opportunity to try out 
our equipment. Only the most important items, such as tents, 
boots, clothing and cooking apparatus could be put to the test 
in high mountain conditions. All other articles, for the greater 
part of which we were indebted to the generosity of German 
industry, came in only a few weeks before our departure, in 
certain cases literally at the eleventh hour. Some of the firms 
subscribing were quite understandably put off by the adverse 
press, and this greatly hampered our preparations. 

It was particularly difficult and there is no reason why I 
should not be quite frank about this to get hold of the down- 
filled sleeping-bags. Many months before our departure we 
had been given definite assurances that these would be supplied, 
which assurances were promptly withdrawn when the mounting 
opposition to our project reached its climax. At the last minute, 
when all the crates containing the expedition's equipment had 
been handed over to our shipping agents then, and only then, 
were the sleeping-bags delivered. Aschenbrenner was not able 
to test them until we were actually at Base Camp. 

Boots were one of our greatest problems. We decided on a 
large simple leather boot after the pattern of the old "Paidar" 
Himalaya-boot. The uppers extended above the ankles with a 


Nanga Parbat 

canvas cuff, the heel-cap was extremely firm and the lacing as 
simple as possible. These boots were all provided with the well- 
tried Luklein-Profile rubber sole which had given excellent 
service to the Swiss climbers on Mount Everest. We dispensed 
entirely with tricouni nailing. As protection against cold two 
pairs of felt linings were provided for each pair of boots. These 
linings could be changed, they could be taken out to dry, and 
they also could be used in camp as slippers if covered with a 
Perlon overshoe. These slippers or camp shoes were quite 
successful but the smooth overshoes proved unsuitable in snow, 
causing one to slip helplessly. This drawback could be overcome 
in future by fitting the Perlon overshoes with a ridged rubber 
sole. In accordance with Peter Aschenbrenner's strict maxim of 
"many layers" we wore inside the felt linings one pair of thin 
and two pairs of thick woollen socks. 

For our trousers we purchased Bilgery gaberdine, but we 
had a great deal of trouble in deciding on the best way of 
fastening them at the ankles until our friend L. Aschenbrenner 
of Munich pointed out the advantages of long trousers which 
pouched at the ankles and which were worn inside the boots. 
These later gave good service. 

The choice of the right type of under-garments was likewise 
no easy matter. Again the princiole of "many layers" applied, 
this time to the thinnest possible underwear made of pure wool. 
Excellent products were supplied by many reputable firms, but 
the pure woollen undergarments after the system of Prof. 
Jager found most favour with the team. Even when soaked with 
perspiration they continued to give warmth. This was a factor of 
great importance to us, for during our ascent we were often 
transferred within a few hours from the glaring heat of the 
ice-fall to a region of 20 C. or more below zero. Whenever 
during the ascent we, as novices of the Himalaya, found it difficult 
to reconcile ourselves to our warm clothing Peter Aschen- 
brenner would sustain us with his classical piece of advice: 
"Always climb slowly enough to avoid sweating even in warm 
clothing." He was absolutely right. We climbed slowly and 
steadily and came to terms with our outfit. 

On top of our flannel shirts we all wore one thin and one 


View across the Moor's Head towards the south wall of Nanga Parbat, the 

greatest precipice in the world, dropping 15,000 feet into the Rupal Valley. 

(1) The Summit; (2) Fore-Summit 

Appendix (A) 

thick pullover of pure wool. Some of us wore on top of that a 
lightweight waistcoat made of parachute Perlon. 

Our anoraks were made according to our own specification. 
The ancient Himalaya anorak of my brother Willy Merkl did 
duty as a pattern. These anoraks extended halfway down the 
thighs and were fitted with a broad hood which, however, could 
be pulled tight around the face by means of an encased cord. 
The top edge of the hood was broadened to form an eye-shield. 
The anoraks of double Ninoflex were made to pull on over the 
head and had no front fastening. There was a large breast- 
pocket with flap and double buttoned closing, and below, a large 
muff-like pocket extending right across with a slit opening on 
either side which could be sealed by a flap. At the back was a 
space which could be closed by a zip-fastener and which served 
to accommodate a tent-bag and two packages, one containing 
emergency rations, the other first-aid supplies. It had to be 
Hermann Buhl of all people who removed the tent-bag from his 
anorak when he set out for the summit on 3rd July, 1953. 

From the German Perlon Works we received at the last 
moment the full quantity of 8 mm. Perlon rope woven according 
to our specification. We also received a number of experimental 
tents, sleeping-bags and rucksacks, all of Perlon. The Perlon 
tent could not be used in the lower camps as it was able to 
withstand only dry snow. It was not practicable in rain or sleet. 
We reached this conclusion with the greatest reluctance as all 
Perlon products have a great attraction for the mountaineer on 
account of their extreme lightness. 

We had on the expedition a few large tents, ten storm tents 
and a large number of house-tents of the well-known "Deuter" 
make. They proved hard-wearing and utterly reliable; their 
quality in fact was quite outstanding, and had we not ourselves 
selected the patent press-stud fastenings everything would have 
been perfect. But doing up these press-studs from the outside 
and in extreme cold proved to be a major difficulty, for in no 
time one's fingers were numb. "Deuter"-tents, yes, but without 
the press-stud fastenings, should be the watchword for future 

On the advice of Peter Aschenbrenner the tents were to have 



Nanga Parbat 

as floor-covering the foam-rubber mattresses which had 
previously been so popular. It took me some time and no small 
effort to convince friend Peter that inflatable rubber mattresses 
were preferable on account of their light weight. We finally 
agreed on the Wetzel mattress which gave excellent service. 

It is of course not possible to discuss at length all the con- 
siderations which had to be weighed in the balance before each 
part of our equipment could be passed as being up to expedition 
standard. Every single item was liable to produce quite a head- 
ache, as for instance the problems of the puttees and the mitts. 
Some were in favour of the type of canvas gaiters which used to 
be worn for ski-ing and which buckled at the sides. But the 
majority expressed a preference for ordinary woollen puttees. 
Then the question of length came in for discussion! The 1 -metre 
puttees were rejected out of hand. We considered whether they 
should be 1^ or 2 metres. Finally we agreed on the longer ones. 

As to the material for the mitts, canvas was well-tried, Perlon 
was new and goat-hide was what we wanted. Ultimately we 
took white Perlon for the porters and horse-hide for the Sahibs. 

As head-gear we took tropical helmets and felt hats of the 
Alpine pattern. For the glacier zone we had collapsible sun 
hats. For warmth we took thin and thick balaclavas. At my 
special request Frau Marz, who gave me much motherly 
advice on such matters, had some soft woollen shawls knitted 
for us in Munich. These were made like bags open at both ends 
and could be put to a variety of uses pulled over the head, 
wound round the hips or wrapped round the hands or feet. 

Thus there were many details which called for consideration, 
observation and testing, but so many obstacles were so con- 
stantly being put in our way, that our precious time ran short. 
Many a time my thoughts strayed dolefully to the British Everest 
team who were able to get ahead with their preparations in 
peace and with every possible support. The Everest equipment 
was put to the test on the Jungfraujoch during the snow storms 
of December, that is to say, in weather conditions as severe as 
any likely to be encountered in the Himalaya in May. These 
experiments carried Aschenbrenner's principle of "many layers" 
a few steps further. As already mentioned on page 137, the 


Appendix (A) 

principle was applied to the sleeping-bags when the team were in 
Base Camp: two bags were slipped into each other thus pro- 
viding for an insulating layer of air in between. Likewise the 
high altitude boots used by the British team were insulated by 
an inch of kapok fibres contained between an outer layer of 
glac6 kid and an inner waterproof lining to prevent the humidity 
of perspiration from oozing outward and freezing the uppers 
stiff. Even the boots for lower altitude use had the insulating 
layer in the form of a fur lining contained between two leather 
uppers. Sir John Hunt expended this care on the boots bearing 
in mind the experience of the French Annapurna expedition, the 
members of which had to pay constant attention to their 
numbed feet. It may well be that, had our expedition been able 
to devote similar care to footwear, Buhl might have been 
spared the excruciating experience of having his toes amputated. 

Another interesting application of the principle of double 
layers by the British expedition was the use of two air mattresses 
on top of each other to prevent the cold air from rising along 
the grooves between the single air tubes; the upper tubes were 
placed into the grooves of the lower ones, thus sealing off the 
draught. The top mattress was only partly inflated to ensure a 
comfortable yielding surface. 

I insisted from the outset and contrary to other opinions that 
the expedition should be equipped with radio and oxygen 
apparatus. Although we were never in serious need of the 
Drager oxygen apparatus and were not able to carry out the 
intended experimental climbs with and without oxygen, it 
would surely be irresponsible to embark nowadays on a 
Himalayan expedition without oxygen equipment. Illnesses 
which in normal conditions would present no serious difficulties, 
might in high altitudes take a turn which would endanger the 
patient's life. All bodily functions, and among them the power 
of resistance, are adversely affected by the lack of oxygen. 
Oxygen is one of the most important items of equipment for a 
modern expedition and should always be easily available to the 
assault camps. 

While still at home it seemed to me that a radio apparatus 
which would enable the various camps to keep in touch would 


Nanga Parbat 

be an enormous advantage. Accordingly we took with us three 
Telefunken-Teleport-II-apparatus'. One of them got damaged in 
transit and we had to make do with the absolute minimum of 
two. But these two kept going the whole time, even if with 
steadily weakening batteries, and those comrades who would 
have been quite willing to abandon the cases at the quayside as 
so much dead weight, were the first on the mountain to express 
enthusiasm for the idea of such close contact between the Base 
and Assault Camps. 



The Hunza Porters 


UNTIL THE ascent of Mount Everest the public at large had been 
little aware of the extent to which a modern climbing expedition 
depends on an efficient porter service. Tensing acquired fame 
not only for himself but also for his fellow Sherpas, whose 
loyalty, endurance and sheer sporting spirit impressed the 
world. Obviously this small and remote mountain tribe 
possessed unique qualities of body and mind which were not 
explained by the rigour of their habitat. Yet two major expedi- 
tions in 1953 did not make use of Sherpas and hired porters from 
a small Karakoram tribe, the Hunzas. One was the German- 
Austrian expedition to Nanga Parbat; the other, starting a few 
weeks afterwards, was the American expedition to the second 
highest peak of the world, K2. 

As we have seen, the Nanga Parbat climbers had to make do 
with Hunza porters ; only five Sherpas had been hired, together 
with a Sirdar not of the highest category. There were three 
reasons for this : the great demand for Sherpas for the Everest 
expedition and others in the central and eastern Himalaya; the 
dislike of Sherpas for Nanga Parbat where so many of their 
fellows had lost their lives, and finally the preference of Pakistani 
officials for their own nationals and co-religionists. Hence even 
this small Sherpa contingent was not allowed to enter Kashmir. 
The American climbers, fully informed of the position, relied 
on the local Hunza porters from the outset. Captain H. R. A. 
Streather of the Gloucestershire Regiment, who was attached 
to the American expedition as transport officer, had climbed 


Nanga Parbat 

with two Hunza porters on Tirich Mir (Hindukush) in 1950 and 
had become interested in their long-term training. 

It is perhaps this different approach to the Hunzas their use 
as a substitute on the one hand and their long-term training on 
the other which may account for the very different experience 
which the two expeditions had with their porters. 

When on the eve of the final assault, Walter Frauenberger 
led his four Hunzas up the Rakhiot Ice-wall he knew that 
everything was at stake. It is no exaggeration to say that failure 
was averted by Frauenberger's tactful handling. Even the best 
of the Hunza porters had not yet learned to identify themselves, 
as do most Sherpas, with the enterprise of the foreign 

The K2 expedition fared much better. Captain Streather was 
kind enough to state the relevant facts in a private communica- 
tion. Account was taken from the very outset of the limited 
training of the Hunzas and they were not expected to carry 
loads to heights greatly in excess of 21,000 feet, a limitation 
which was more serious on a mountain of the superior height 
of K2. Initial difficulties were overcome after the porters 
gradually gained confidence in themselves and in the leadership 
of the climbers. Captain Streather thinks that climbers must 
strive to gain the fullest confidence of the porters in order also 
to offset the superstitious fear of high mountains which is 
widespread in these regions (e.g., in Chitral). Hence it would 
take many more years before a small trained elite corps of 
porters could be formed. The eminence of Sirdars among the 
Sherpas shows how greatly single personalities can influence the 
morale of the whole team; this steadying and disciplining 
influence (such as was exercised by Tensing on Everest) may be 
more valuable than the confidence which the climbers them- 
selves might be able to inspire. 

It is therefore very difficult, not to say unjust, to draw com- 
parisons between the Hunza porters in their present state of 
training and the seasoned Sherpa porters. Views on this differ 
widely. Eric Shipton, with his extensive knowledge of the Kara- 
koram and Himalaya, has considered the relative merits of 
Sherpas and Hunzas (The Sherpas and their Country, 


Hunza porters descending from Camp III, making their way over the sharp edge of a 
serac with a 300-foot-deep crevasse to their left (1953) 

Appendix (S) 

Geographical Magazine, August, 1952), and has expressed the 
opinion that the Sherpas owe their proficiency mainly to the fact 
that Mount Everest happened to be near their homeland. "It is 
probable," says Shipton, "that had Mount Everest been in the 
western instead of the eastern Himalaya another people, the 
Hunzas perhaps, would have taken their place." He even con- 
siders the Hunzas to be better rock-climbers than the Sherpas 
and believes that with training they could also become first-class 
climbers in ice and snow. 

But other writers are more cautious in their assessment. 
G. O. Dyhrenfurth (Zum Dritten Pol, Munich, 1952), declares 
that there is a tendency to romanticize the simple, strong and 
healthy people of Hunza. They are more difficult about their 
food than are the Sherpas, the latter having learned to make use 
of European inventions. Sir John Hunt reported that during 
the conquest of Mount Everest in 1953 the Sherpas soon 
recognized the advantages of oxygen and readily took to its use. 
Yet they were equally prepared to do without it. On Nanga 
Parbat the climbers did not use their down-padded jackets 
because they were unable to issue similar clothing to the 
Hunza porters. So the jackets remained stowed away in the 
Base Camp and the climbers had to rely exclusively on woollen 
garments which weighed much more. One result of this was 
that Buhl, always keen on reducing the weight of his kit, was 
wearing only one thin pullover on the night of his bivouac. 
The Mount Everest climbers had relied on down suits to reduce 
the number of woollen garments. 

The main difference, then, between the Sherpa and Hunza 
porters appears to be their attitude towards the climbers and 
their interest in the success of the enterprise for its own sake. 
The Sherpas would feel aggrieved if they were not allowed to 
take part in some particularly difficult climb. When, during the 
expedition to Chogori (K2) in 1938, Houston chose Pasang 
Kikuli to be his sole companion for the assault (the same 
Kikuli incidentally who in 1934 had fought his way down from 
the Silver Plateau), the Sherpas who were left behind voiced 
their keen disappointment. Theirs was much more the attitude 
of the sportsman. Pasang Kikuli died on Chogori the following 


Nanga Parbat 

year when he went out on his own to save an American climber 
who was marooned in one of the high camps. One feels that 
such loyalty and initiative cannot simply be matters of training 
and experience. 

The "discovery" of the Sherpas as high altitude porters was 
made by the renowned General Bruce, who as a young officer 
accompanied Mummery on his 1895 expedition to Nanga 
Parbat. It is perhaps incorrect to say that Bruce "discovered" 
the superior qualities of the Sherpas ; he trained them by first 
learning their local languages and then winning their confidence 
and their devotion. In a smaller way Walter Frauenberger 
performed a similar task during the 1953 expedition. The 
Hunzas called him the "good" Sahib and gave him their trust. 
According to Aschenbrenner he cooked for them, gave one of 
them his own socks to encourage him, and lent his foam-rubber 
mattress to a tired porter while he himself lay in the "mud". 
But unlike General Bruce with the Sherpas, he could not talk to 
them or, even more important, understand them. The liaison 
officer, a Gilgit man, sent the porters on their way with an 
admonitory lecture and then for some reason remained in the 
Base Camp so that any effective communication was afterwards 
impossible. It is legitimate to assume that a more intimate 
contact such as General Bruce established with the Sherpas is 
needed to evoke that full co-operation of which the Hunzas 
are undoubtedly capable. 

As hired porters the Hunzas show a side of their personality 
which is not at all in evidence when they are on their home 
ground. The German Sahibs found them unreliable and 
quarrelsome, but at home they are well versed in democratic 
self-government and display a fine co-operative spirit in common 
enterprises. To the climbers they appeared moody and sullen, 
but among their neighbours they have a reputation for unruffled 
cheerfulness and friendly self-confidence. As for their numerous 
ailments on the mountain, they are a people whose good health 
is proverbial. They showed excessive greed in the allotment of 
rations and the climbers were amazed at the quantities they were 
able to consume. At home, owing to the stringent poverty of the 
Hunza country, they subsist the year round on a diet which is 


Appendix (B) 

wholly inadequate by Western standards, and perform great 
feats of endurance on a minimum of food. 

If the Hunzas appeared to the German- Austrian climbers like 
Tyrolese peasants, an English traveller had also seen in them a 
similarity to her own compatriots. To Mrs. E. O. Lorimer, wife 
of a former Political Agent in Gilgit, they were the least 
"oriental" tribe in that part of the world: not intellectual, 
visionary, fanatical, nor artistically gifted; but tolerant, 
endowed with commonsense, and with a natural aptitude for 
self-government, that is to say, with attributes to which the 
English themselves can lay claim. That they should appear to 
visiting strangers to reflect their own characteristics implies no 
mean compliment to the Hunzas. 

There can be no doubt that the Hunzas are an exceptional 
people. To build and sustain a simple and gracious culture such 
as theirs in so unfavourable an environment implies outstanding 
mental and physical stamina. Their country was described by 
Shipton as "the ultimate manifestation of mountain grandeur 
. . . the very heart of the greatest concentration of high mountains 
in the world . . . difficult to describe without indulging in super- 
latives." In the Hunza valley Lord Curzon counted eight peaks 
of over 24,000 feet within a range of seventy miles. To reach Bal- 
tit, the capital of Hunza, from Gilgit, one has to follow the gorge 
of the H unza river r o und Rakaposhi, the great Karakoram peak yet 
unclimbed, which like Nanga Parbat soars in splendid isolation. 

The central Hunza territory, seen from Gilgit, lies behind 
Rakaposhi. The dangerous trail along the Hunza river is part 
of the long caravan route, now closed by the cease-fire line, 
which once led from the Vale of Kashmir over passes more than 
14,000 feet high to Kashgar in Chinese Turkestan (Sinkiang). 
For centuries a steady trickle of adventurous traders brought 
silk, tea and porcelain to India, and spices, gold and ivory back 
to Kashgar. The prospect of making a fortune led the traders to 
brave the great hazards of the route, particularly the sudden 
landslides along the river gorges. Within the Hunza principality 
the trail is often little more than a rocky ledge two feet wide, 
engraved into the cliff a thousand feet above the valley floor with 
thousands of feet of almost vertical cliff soaring again above it. 


Nanga Parbat 

The edge of the track is left in the natural state and easily 
crumbles away. Sometimes the ledge carrying the track is 
interrupted by sheer cliff for twenty feet or so, after which the 
ledge reappears again. These gaps are bridged by "galleries" in 
the building of which the Hunzas have developed a remarkable 
technique. Flat stones are wedged into any crevice visible in the 
rock wall; on these more rocks are laid, each layer protruding a 
little and interlaced with brush wood. The traders of old offered 
up prayers of thanksgiving every time such a stretch was 
successfully passed. The immense cliffs facing each other across 
the Hunza gorge are bare of all vegetation, their brown surfaces 
being constantly swept clean by falls of rock, mountain debris 
and floods of mud. No spring gushes from these sombre walls. 
Here and there natural terraces have been formed by accumula- 
tions of earth which is little more than pulverized rock. These 
terraces may lie a thousand or more feet above the river bed and 
are connected by the tenuous thread of the caravan trail. It 
is upon this poor soil that the Hunzas must depend for their 

Clinging to the north wall of Rakaposhi lies the rival state 
of Nagar, whose people are closely related to the Hunzas 
linguistically and racially, and yet are curiously different. The 
soil is richer in Nagar and is protected from the scorching sun 
by the shadow of Rakaposhi. But it is said that the lack of sun 
has made the Nagar mind sombre and sour in contrast to the 
merry disposition of the Hunzas. The Nagars have adhered to a 
strict Moslem faith and condemn the Hunzas for their "heresy" 
and their custom of adorning their walls with pictures of their 
Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, which they regard as 
something bordering on idolatry. 

Until 1891 the Nagar and Hunzas engaged in sporadic 
raiding against each other and in the surrounding territory. 
Then the British Raj decided to put a stop to this nuisance. Ths 
"Gilgit Road " was built and a full-scale military campaign was 
launched. It had the desired effect and the rulers of Hunza and 
Nagar and their people changed their ways. They were allowed 
to remain independent in their internal administration and the 
royal families of Hunza and Nagar kept the peace. To-day the 


Reception in Gilgit. Right foreground, the Political Agent 

Appendix (B) 

beautiful medieval castle of the Mirs of Hunza, built into the 
hillside at Baltit, stands empty, while the ruler lives in a modern 
American-style residence and his subjects dwell in their home- 
steads scattered about the valley terraces. 

The engaging pride and self-respect of the Hunzas to-day is 
testimony to the success of the British policy of subduing the 
country and then letting it run itself. Nowadays the Hunzas 
have no army, pay hardly any taxes and the autocracy of the 
Mir is mitigated by human tolerance and far-reaching decentral- 
ization. The hard struggle for existence goes on and every spring 
the danger of starvation is acute. The small population is kept 
constant by the custom of temporary sexual abstinence after 
the birth of each child. Through long usage they are able to 
build and sustain their athletic bodies on a diet which by 
Western standards would be 50% deficient in quantity and 
would contain only 10% of the necessary proteins. They live 
mainly on chapatis (cakes made of barley flour, salt and water) 
and can afford meat only twice or three times a year. The milk 
of their cattle has a very low fat content as there is no grazing 
land. The fruit crop, particularly apricots which grow wild 
anywhere, is an important addition to the diet. 

All the industry and ingenuity of the Hunza goes into the 
levelling and watering of his small terraced fields that they may 
every year yield their poor harvest. The rainfall is negligible, 
perhaps two inches per year. No snow falls on this barren 
landscape during the cold but short winter months. There are 
no springs; and the river lies 1,000 feet below in the gorge. The 
main channel supplying most of the central part of the princi- 
pality was dug over a hundred years ago with wooden shovels 
and represents a major feat of engineering and concerted 
communal effort. Careful rotation of crops is practised and every 
scrap of dung is collected. This incidentally makes for a degree 
of cleanliness and a lack of squalor unparalleled in any similarly 
primitive peasant economy. There is hardly any wood for fires 
and the short but grim winter months are spent in the draught- 
proof and windowless living-rooms of their lean-to stone 
dwellings. The rest of the year, day and night, is lived 
practically in the open. Spring brings the inevitable period of 


Nanga Parbat 

near-starvation. The Hunzas remain cheerful on such food as 
turnip-tops and edible weeds and only the children complain 
of hunger. As soon as leaves begin to sprout, the foliage of all 
but the fruit trees is stripped and fed to the domestic animals. 
As the snows recede from the heights above, revealing here and 
there small patches of green, the young men take the cattle up 
the precipitous walls of rock and put their beasts on these 
minute and lofty pastures for a few weeks' grazing. If one 
reflects what this must entail in terms of mountaineering 
technique, to say nothing of the construction of the vertiginous 
cliff paths and the systematic irrigation of the narrow, high- 
perched terraces, Shipton's appraisal of the Hunzas as the best 
rock-climbers in Asia seems acceptable enough. It is recorded 
that an American visitor to the Hunza country was invited to 
take part in the hunting of Marco Polo sheep which had been 
sighted only "a few miles away". It turned out that these few 
miles had to be counted vertically, straight up to a height of 
18,500 feet, and the Hunzas found it disappointing that their 
guest could not manage the climb at one go. The same visitor 
timed a messenger sent on foot from Baltit to Gilgit; the 65-mile 
route was covered in nineteen and a half hours. 

The Hunzas cling tenaciously to their ancient language, their 
racial purity and their age-old customs, and their houses are 
built on the pattern of prehistoric Central-Asian dwellings 
recently excavated. But their conservatism cannot be explained 
purely in terms of their geographical isolation, for they have 
lived astride the main caravan route of Central Asia at the 
meeting place of two very divergent cultures. Their cultural 
independence and poverty cannot be the natural outcome of 
fortuitous isolation, but the result of deliberate preference and 
national pride. To-day the Mir of Hunza has not been afraid 
to open his country to the jeep, and an internal, battery-fed 
telephone system enables him to speak every day to the village 
elders. The Mir has dismissed fears that disease would spread 
to his people through closer contact with the outside world 
with the counter-argument that modern medical services would 
become available at the same time. But he expressed anxiety 
that the rumoured gold finds in his principality might corrupt 


Appendix (B) 

the old ways of life. Fortunately the rumour proved false. Here, 
indeed, is poverty self-imposed and a fitting pride in the virtues 
of a fine and ancient civilization. 

How then can this picture of cheerfulness, poise, friendly 
co-operation and frugality be reconciled with Elizabeth Knowl- 
ton's description of the Hunza porters who took part in the 
German- American expedition of 1932? She described them as 
"our dark, unreliable, mysterious, most frequently sullen and 
quarrelsome Hunzas" and contrasted their behaviour with the 
"child-like open-mindedness and cheerfulness" of the Sherpas. 
How can their rapacious greed for food and their flagrant 
dishonesty be reconciled with their customary frugality and 
restraint which would never allow them to touch a grain of corn 
set aside for seed? 

It may be profitable to recall the attitude of the Hunzas to 
the outside world which once gained them the reputation of 
being robbers and murderers. In 1866 the eminent linguist 
Leitner, to whom we owe the first study of the Burusho language 
common to the Hunza and Nagar principalities, crept into 
Gilgit disguised as a mullah, carrying his own featherweight 
cork bed and with two revolvers and a few pots of "Liebig" 
meat extract in his pockets. He spoke of the wild and impious 
people of Hunza who revered the Aga Khan, but he doubted 
whether the Aga Khan knew how "wicked" they were and they 
how pious he was (The Hunza and Nagyr Handbook, 1893, 
Woking Oriental Institute). Old enmities have not been forgotten 
and tension still exists between the rival principalities of Hunza 
and Nagar. For "outsiders" the Hunzas have always worn a 
mask. The Sahibs from Europe who could not speak their 
language and were ignorant of local customs may have failed 
to evoke the co-operative spirit of the Hunzas which was 
reserved for home consumption, but instead became the object 
of the aggressiveness which was equally ingrained in that side 
of their character which they were accustomed to display to 
the outside world. 

The solemn undertaking to support the German climbers 
which the Hunza porters had to give to their Mir in 1953 
certainly did something to counteract their innate hostility 


Nanga Parbat 

towards "outsiders", but could not help to establish the closer 
human contact which alone would have brought out their 
singular qualities. Aschenbrenner obviously understood them 
when he said : "The Hunzas are not coolies and will not be called 
by that name. They consider themselves to be gentlemen who 
are helping other gentlemen and accordingly expect to be 
equipped in the same manner. They have clear-cut ethical 
standards and know the meaning of loyalty and comradeship." 
If free rein is to be given to their great potentialities for 
co-operation and endurance, which to date have been so 
unhappily obscured by moody unreliability, some attempt must 
be made to meet them on their own ground. Will there be another 
Bruce who will master the Hunza language, make himself 
familiar with Hunza custom and win the devotion and respect 
of this dignified people? If such a man should appear on the 
Western Himalayan scene, the Sherpas might well have to look 
to their laurels. 



About Oxygen 

THE BODY has to "burn" oxygen to maintain its metabolism. 
If oxygen is withheld the life of the cells will cease. The satura- 
tion of the blood with oxygen depends to a large extent upon the 
pressure obtaining in the atmosphere. There must exist a 
certain relationship of pressure between the air in the lungs and 
the blood; the oxygen is literally pressed into the blood by this 
difference in pressure. The smaller the difference the less oxygen 
can be absorbed by the blood. 

In greater altitudes the pressure in the lung tissues decreases 
and with it the saturation of the blood with oxygen. This 
diminution becomes noticeable only in altitudes above 10,000 
feet; up to this limit the blood's reserves of unused oxygen make 
up for the decreasing supply. At an altitude of 23,000 feet the 
blood is saturated only to 70% of the normal amount. 

Nevertheless, the experience of climbers on Himalayan 
expeditions has shown that altitudes up to 23,000 feet can be 
tolerated even after a prolonged period at these heights; the 
body has at its disposal certain faculties which enable it to 
adapt itself to the changed environmental conditions. To begin 
with it reacts as it would to any physical exertion: the heart 
beats faster and the blood circulates more quickly; at the same 
time the rate of breathing increases and with it the metabolism of 
oxygen. An even more important adjustment is the increase in 
the number of red corpuscles which carry the oxygen in the 
blood; their number can rise from 5,000,000 per cubic milli- 
metre to 7-8,000,000 per cubic millimetre within four weeks. 
With this increase the blood can absorb more oxygen and 


Nanga Parbat 

improve its supply to the cells. If this adjustment is made the 
originally increased pulse rate may sink again, although it will 
never, in high altitudes, return altogether to normalcy. 

As a third adaptation the body will try to economize in 
oxygen by curtailing or moderating its functions. Thus the 
climber becomes lethargic and needs great determination and 
will power if he is to pursue his climbing objectives. The 
comparatively small physical exertions involved in pitching a 
tent or preparing food loom large and call for tremendous 

All these adaptations go to make the successful acclimatiza- 
tion of a climber. The degree of acclimatization varies widely 
with the constitution of the individual. It may also be affected 
by the enormous fluctuations in the outside temperatures and 
the damaging influences of sun radiation. The most favourable 
zone for acclimatization is normally around 19,000 to 20,000 
feet. Beyond this altitude, at about 23,000 feet, a critical zone 
is reached where successful acclimatization can no longer be 
expected. From 25,500 feet onwards the climber enters the 
so-called "death zone". The only treatment for the ensuing 
symptoms is to restore the normal supply of oxygen. The 
symptoms consist in the first place of the very phenomena which 
at lower altitudes would have assisted the process of adaptation, 
but in an exaggerated form. The pulse rate increases furiously 
and the climber pants for breath. 

Loss of carbon dioxide may also contribute to breathing 
difficulties. As a consequence of the continuously deeper and 
quicker breathing, more carbon dioxide is given off than under 
normal conditions. And through the impoverishment of its 
carbon dioxide content the blood also changes its physiological 
properties. This change was assumed by Mosso to be the 
principal cause of mountain sickness, an opinion which is now 
considered obsolete. But the carbon dioxide acts as the normal 
regulator of the breathing function by stimulating a rhythmical 
activation of the breathing muscles without conscious inter- 
vention of the brain. A diminished carbon dioxide content of 
the blood may cause a disturbance in the breathing function in 
the following manner: After a long pause respiration starts with 


Appendix (C) 

very shallow breaths which gradually increase into a very deep 
and panting breathing movement known as Cheyne-Stokes 
breathing. The lack of oxygen at high altitude is consciously 
experienced as a definite "hunger" for air. The brain reacts 
soonest to its deprivation of oxygen. On the physiological side, 
the disturbance of proper brain functioning may cause severe 
headaches, vertigo, sickness and vomiting. 

The subjective mental phenomena may be equally marked. 
The climber suffers from feelings of great lassitude, and general 
lack of will power. Lapses of consciousness may occur and the 
faculty of reasoning is affected. In its last phases the ascent of a 
peak above 26,000 feet approximates to a race with death. The 
pulse and respiration rates reach their maximum and can hold 
off death only for a short time by keeping the oxygen deficit as 
low as possible. Here the efficiency of the circulation and the 
condition of the heart may play a decisive part. Buhl owes his 
success not only to his determination and technical excellence, 
but also to his extraordinarily sound heart. His report of the 
dramatic hours of his descent indicates that he was suffering 
seriously from mountain sickness. 

The aural and optical hallucinations to which he was subject 
on the second day are typical. Flyers and climbers often report 
that their mucous membranes tend to bleed; Buhl also mentions 
that his saliva became bloodstained. It is more difficult to assess 
Buhl's symptoms as far as the higher functions of the brain are 
concerned. It is known from precise observation in the labora- 
tory, that the highest mental functions are particularly liable to 
be affected by a lack of oxygen. Changes observable in a person's 
hand-writing can be taken as a reliable indication of resistance 
to the effects of high altitude. The complexity of the higher 
mental functions is such that their disturbance may produce 
different symptoms in different individuals; it may cause the 
lethargy, drowsiness and lack of will power already mentioned, 
but it can also produce the state of over-excitement which was 
noticeable in Buhl after his return. In all cases, however, and 
this is significant, the normal activities of consciousness are 
considerably restricted and a diminution of the rational critical 
powers may lead to a serious underestimation of objective 

16 [ 241 ] 

Nanga Parbat 

dangers, as one is tempted to infer from Buhl's improvised 
changes in his plan of assault. 

Inevitably all the finer faculties for aesthetic pleasure in 
natural beauty and for the full enjoyment of the adventure 
which, in normal circumstances, would make a first ascent a 
rich and unforgettable experience, are utterly suppressed. If 
the determination to reach the objective remains intact, it is 
carried through as the automatic fulfilment of a pre-arranged 
and unalterable decision. It will be remembered that when 
Buhl was on the last lap to the summit he said: "... I was 
simply not conscious of the fact that I was at that moment at 
grips with our own Nanga Parbat, an unclimbed 8,000 metre 
peak, the summit to which no less than seven expeditions had 
gone forth, the mountain which had claimed so many lives . . . 
it might just as well have been any other summit in my native 

Another serious hazard of high altitude climbing, that of 
contracting frost-bite, is more intimately connected with the 
general lack of oxygen than might be thought at first. The heat 
of the body is produced by the "burning" of oxygen. A lack of 
oxygen will therefore reduce the heat of the body and expose 
the extremities to the danger of frost-bite. 

Although the Mount Everest Expedition of 1953 has estab- 
lished the usefulness of oxygen equipment, it is still open to 
question exactly to what extent oxygen equipment can counter- 
act the ill effects of low atmospheric pressure. However, if the 
oxygen equipment now available can be further developed and 
made lighter in weight in relation to the volume of oxygen it 
can supply, then it might reasonably be hoped that the elimina- 
tion of the serious biological risks which now beset the climber 
in high altitudes may be almost completely overcome. The 
Himalayan climber will then be able to concentrate exclusively 
on the formidable technical problems which confront him. 





(Number of Observations) 










Base Camp 
(10 fair days) 

all days 

07 h. 
14 h. 
19 h. 
all fixed hours 











Camp I 
(8 fair days) 

all fixed hours 
all fixed hours 











(3518"N.,74 36"E.)inC. 

Fixed hours 




01 h. 

14 h. 

19 h. 

Base Camp, 21.5-2.6 
Base Camp, 29.6-13.7 
Camp I, 3.6-24.6 


-h 2-3 
+ 0-5 

4- 4-4 

4- 4-5 

4- 2-4 
4- 15 

4- 1-8 
4 12-9 
4- 0-8 


Karakoram, Junef 


-f 5-7 

+ 15-8 

- 5-8 

4- 9-1 


* 21 h. instead of 19 h 

f for comparison (after Bleeker) 


Nanga Parbat 





(Base Camp) 3,960 
(Camp I) 4,450 


mean of the periods stated in Table 2* 
period 9-24.6 
all in all 12 observations, corrected 
all in all 7 observations 
all in all 5 observations 

* 21.5-2.6; 29.6-13.7 
















Nanga Parbat 


91 -1 

cca. 4,000 














* 4 years. 

t 1953, partly 1937. 

t 1953. 



Fixed hours 


07 h. 

14 h. 

19 (21) h. 

Base Camp, 3,960 m., 21.5-7.6 
Base Camp, 3,960 m., 28.6-13.7 
Level, 4,300-5,320 m., 3.6-24.6 






Karakoram, 4,500 m., summer 
Hunza region, 4,000 m., summer 







Weather Observations 














Karakoram, 4,500 m. 
Nanga Parbat (1 year) 










Fixed Hours 



14 h. 

19 (21) h. 

Hunza region* 






for comparison (after Sleeker) 















Nanga Parbat (1 year) 








Nanga Parbat 

(Number of Observations) 












Level 5-6 km., all days 












Level 6-8 km., all days 












Level 9-10 km., all days 











Level 6-8 km. 











Level 6-8 km. 












Level 6-8 km., dry days 











Level 6-8 km., days with 











Level 6-8 km., fair days 












a = resultant direction (from frequency; 270 = W, 360 

q = persistence in % 

n = total number of observations 





5,000 m. 


7,000 m. 

8,000 m. 

May, October 
June, September 
July, August 


+ 1 

- 9 

- 5 





AUFSCHNAITER, P., Diamir Side of Nanga Parbat, Himalayan 

Journal XIV/1 10 
BAUER, PAUL, Himalayan Quest, 1938, Nicholson & Watson; 

Nanga Parbat 1938, Himalayan Journal XI/89 
BECHTOLD, FRITZ, Nanga Parbat Adventure, 1935, John Murray; 

Nanga Parbat 1938, Alpine Journal 258/70 
BRUCE, D. G., HON., Himalayan Wanderer, 1934, MacLehose; 

Obituary, Himalayan Journal XHI/108; The Passing of 

Mummery, Himalayan Journal III/l ; Twenty Years in the 

Himalaya, 1910 
CHICKEN, L., Nanga Parbat Reconnaissance, 1939, Himalayan 

Journal XIV/53 
COCKERILL, G. K., Byways in Hunza and Nagar, Geographical 

Journal 60/97 
COLLIE, J. N., Climbing on the Himalaya and other Mountain 

Ranges, 1902, David Douglas 
DYHRENFURTH, G. O., Zum Dritten Pol, 1952, Nymphenburger 

Verlagshandlung Munchen 
GAY-LAY, Obituary, Himalayan Journal VII/159 
GOODWIN, PETER, Gilgit Bazaar, Geographical Magazine, 23 


HERZOG, MAURICE, Annapurna, 1952, Jonathan Cape 
HUNT, SIR JOHN, The Ascent of Everest, 1953, Hodder & 


IRWIN, W. R., Challenge, 1950, Columbia University Press 
KNOWLTON, E., The Naked Mountain, 1933, Putnam 
KUNIGK, H., The German-American Himalayan Expedition, 

1932, Alpine Journal 245/192 
LEITNER, G. W., The Hunza and Nagyr Handbook, 1893 
LONG, F. W., A Recent Visit to Hunza-Nagir, Journal Royal 

Central-Asian Society, 35 (1948)/161 


Nanga Parbat 

LORIMER, D. L. R., The Burushaski Language, 1935, Harvard 

University Press. 
LORIMER, E. O., Language Hunting in the Karakoram, 1939, 

Allen; The Burusho of Hunza, Antiquity 12 (1938); The 

Road to Hunza, Geographical Magazine 3 (1936)/161 
MERKL, W., The Attack on Nanga Parbat, Himalayan Journal 

MORRIS, C. J., Some Valleys and Glaciers in Hunza, Geographical 

Journal 71 (1928)/513 
MUMMERY, A. F., My Climbs in the Alps and Caucasus, 1895, 


PINJU NORBU, Obituary, Himalayan Journal VII/160 
SHIPTON, E., The Sherpas and Their Country, Geographical 

Magazine, 25 (1952)/172 
SHOR, J. & F., At World's End in Hunza, National Geographic 

Magazine 104 (1953)/485 

STEPHENS, L, Horned Moon, 1953, Chatto & Windus 
TOBIN, H. W., Nanga Parbat: The Accident in December, 1950, 

Alpine Journal 282/130 


Book II incorporates the official expedition report 1953. The 
text of Dr. Herrligkoffer has been expanded as follows: (the 
figures following the page numbers refer to lines) 

p. 105, 36-38. p. 106, 1-3. p. 114, 4-28. p. 115, 34-39. 
p. 116, 25-28. p. 117, 9-14, 19-22, 31-38. p. 118, 1, 2, 34-37. 
p. 119, 14-18. p. 153, 12-19. p. 160,23-38. p. 161, 1-4,22-29. 
p. 163, 29-31. p. 166, 18-38. p. 167. p. 168. p. 169, 1-11, 
16-38. p. 170, 34-38. p. 171. p. 172. p. 173, 1-5, 16-38. 
p. 174, 1-11. p. 175, 5-15, 18-38. p. 177, 13-38. p. 178, 1-4. 
p. 179, 17-38. p. 180, 1-22. p. 181, 10-38. p. 182. p. 183, 
1-14, 20-22. p. 186, 11-13. p. 188, 12-27. p. 189, 1-18. 
p. 191, 16-24. p. 196, 3-23, 29-35. p. 197, 1-15. p. 204, 1-16. 
p. 205, 34-40. p. 209, 5-12. p. 218, 1-9. p. 226, 33-38. 
p. 227, 1-22. Appendix (B): pp. 229-238. Appendix (C) is 
condensed from the chapter Der Mensch in grossen Hohen. 

The meteorological tables were prepared by Prof. Flohn on 
the basis of Mr. Bitterling's observations. 

E 248 3 


Afghanistan, 118, 126 

AgaKhan, 117,234,237 

Aiguille de Grpon, 34 

Aiguilles de Chamonix, 100 

AlimShah, 158 

Alpine Club, 20; (Austrian), 43, 99, 

100, 103; (German), 43, 97, 98; 
(Munich Branch of German A.C.), 
13, 98, 99, 102; (Italian), 103 

Amphitheatre, see Rakhiot glacier 

Amundsen, 15 
Andes, 100 
Angtsering, 66-8 
Annapurna, 17, 227 
Aschenbrenner, L., 102, 224 
Aschenbrenner, Peter, 11, 42, 44, 

48, 50, 55, 58, 61-6, 92, 93, 99, 

101, 102, 106, 111, 136 f., 140, 
142-52, 162 f., 166 f., 170, 171 f., 
173 f., 175, 177, 182 f., 196, 204, 
223-6, 238, and passim 

Astor, 44 

Astor Valley, 25, 59, 119, 124 

Atlas (High), 43 

Aufschnaiter, Peter, 86, 88, 89, 204, 247 

Aumann, Fritz, 100-4, 108, 125, 
129, 130, 132, 135, 137, 138, 141, 
146, 147, 150, 151, 159, 160, 162, 
167-9, 172-5, 179, 181, 186, 190, 
198, 212, 213, 215, and passim 

Babusar Pass, 24, 25, 81 f., 86, 107, 

114, 115, 161, 162 
Bald, 92 
Baltistan, 119 
Baltit, 118,233,235,236 
Base Camp, see Nanga Parbat, Camps 
Batura, 118 

Bauer, Paul, 11, 70, 73 f., 81 f., 94, 247 
Baumeister, Heinz, 58 
Bazhin Gap, 29, 51, 88, 191, 204 f., 

207 f. 
Bazhin Glacier, 25 

Bechtold, Fritz, 42, 44, 49, 52-5, 58, 
61-3, 68, 73, 75, 77, 81, 83, 247 

Bernard, Willy, 58, 61 

Bhutia, 82, 88 

Bitterling, Albert, 16, 100-3, 107, 
113, 125, 130, 132, 133, 137, 141, 
142 f., 145-7, 150, 151, 154 f., 161, 
167-9, 175, 181, 186, 187, 190, 198, 
212, 214, 215, 217, 248 

Blakeney, Major T. S., 20 

Boiohagur Duanasir, 1 1 8 

Bruce, General 30, 31, 36, 39, 68, 232, 
238, 247 

Buhl, Hermann, 19, 36, 64, 88, 100-4, 
108, 109, 112, 113, 125, 132-4, 
149-51, 157, 160-3, 165-76, 
178-81, 183-92, 194-200, 201 
ff.-217, 220, 225, 227, 241, 242 

Buldar Ridge (Peak), 116, 122, 126, 
129 f., 147, 169, 214 

Bunar Valley, 25 

Burzil Pass, 25, 27, 43, 59, 70 

Burusho (Hunza Language), 118, 237 

Camp Spur, see Lagersporn 
Camps, see Nanga Parbat 
Caucasus, 26, 43, 154 
Cease-fire Line, see United Nations' 

Cease-fire Line 
Chapati, 31,45, 139 
Chapman, F. Spencer, 114 
Chicken, Ludwig, 32, 86, 88, 247 
Chilas, 27, 32, 43, 58, 59, 73, 88, 121, 

125, 126, 138, 161, 162, and passim 
Chinese Turkestan, see Sinkiang 
Chitral, 230 
Chlingensperg v., 81 
Chogori, see K 2 
Chola-Beg, 139 
Chomolhari, 114 
Chongra Peaks (Group), 45, 50, 62, 

71, 72, 147, 170, 173, 184; 

(South Chongra Peak), 50, 163 
Cockerill, G. C, 247 



Collie, J. Norman, 26, 28, 31, 32, 34, 

35, 37-9, 247 
Cropper, Major, 73 
Curzon Lord, 233 

Dakshi 66, 67, 

Da Tondup, 73 

Degin Shah, 167 

Dhaulagiri (Expedition), 104 

Diama Gaps, 37, 45, 87, 132 

Diama Glacier, 87, 88 

Diamir Depression, 64, 197, 203, 207, 

208 f. 
Diamir Face (Flank), 29 f., 35, 37, 

86 f., 115,206 

Diamir Ice-fall, 29, 32, 39, 87 
Diamir Valley, 29, 31, 37, 38, 86, 89 
Diamirai Pass, 29 
Dras, 244, 245 
Drexel, Alfred ("Balbo"), 58, 61, 68, 

74, 134, 145, 173 
Dyhrenfurth, 58, 92, 231, 247 

East Arete, see Nanga Parbat 

Eiger North Wall, 88, 100 

Elbrus, 154 

Ertl, Hans, 100-4, 121, 123, 130, 
133, 137, 138, 141, 144, 145, 148, 
149, 151, 152, 158-60, 166, 167-73, 
175, 177-9, 181, 182, 187-92, 196- 

Eschner, Herbert, 99 

Evans, G. J., 20 

Everest, see Mt. Everest 

Fairy Meadow, 44, 59, 116, 122, 131 f., 

Fankhauser, Pert, 15, 71, 76 

Finsterwalder, Richard, 58 

Flohn, Prof., 16, 107 n., 248 

Frauenberger, Walter, 100, 101, 103, 
108, 121, 125, 127, 132, 133, 
137, 141, 144, 150-3, 155, 158-60, 
163 f., 166-76 f., 179, 181-92, 
196-9, 208, 210 f., 213, 230, 232 

Frey, Prof., 98 

Frier, Lieut., 44-6, 48, 55, 58 

Ganalo Glacier, 133, 146 

Ganalo Peak (Ridge), 87, 89 f., 116, 

132, 138, 155 
Gay-Lay, 66-8 f., 84, 192, 213, 247 

Geographical Magazine, 231 

Geographical Society (German), 217 

Ghi, 140, 152 

Ghurka, 11,30,48 

Gilgit, 25, 52, 73, 107, 113, 114, 116 f., 
120 f., 126, 136, 141, 162, 168, 184, 
214, 21 5 f., 233, 236, 244, 245, 
and passim ; (Agency), 27, 114; 
("Road"), 24, 27, 43, 70, 71, 81, 
234 f.; (Scouts), 44, 73, 116 

Gilgit River, 116, 123; (Valley), 117, 
121, 123 

Goman Singh, 30, 32 

Goodwin, Peter, 247 

Gor, 123 

Gottner, Adolf, 70, 76 

Grandes, Jorasses, 97 

Guilchi, 43 

Hadje Beg, 167, 189 

Hamberger, Hugo, 42, 52 

Haramosh, 142 

Harrer, Heinrich, 86, 88, 89, 204 

Harrison, C. J. O., 20 

Hartmann, Hans, 70, 76 

Hassan, Rhabar, 119, 135, 138-40, 

148, 151, 159, 160, 215 
Hastings, Geoffrey, 26, 31, 35, 37, 38 
Hedin, Sven, 218 
Hepp, Gunther, 70, 76 
Herrligkoffer, Karl, 13, 17, 18, 19, 
21 n., 101, 151, 157, 158, 169, 
172-4, 187, 199, 206, 211, 219, 
248, and passim 

Herron, Rand, 42, 43, 46-9, 52, 55-7 
Herzog, Maurice, 247 
Hidaya Khan, 156, 189 
Hillary, Sir Edmund, 205 n. 
Himalaya Foundation (German), 18, 

70 f., 73, 89, 146 
Himalaya Society (German), 97 
Himalayan Club, 20 
Himalayan Journal, 20, 68, 84 n. 
Hindukush, 118,206,230 
Houston, 149, 231 
Hunt, Sir John, 1 1, 227, 231, 247 
Hunza, see also Burusho, 27, 44, 53, 
58,92, 116, 117f., 122, 124, 133, 
135, 139, 142, 148, 154, 155 f., 
167, 170, 189-91, 196, 216 f., 
239 ff., and passim; (Mir\44, 116, 
128, 235, 236 
Hunza River (Valley Region), 118, 123, 

244, 245 
Hussain, Dr., 105 



Ice-fall, Great, see Rakhiot Glacier 
Indus Valley (Gorge), 24, 38, 59, 81, 

89, 115 f., 116, 122, 123 f., 126, 

127, 147, 153, 165, 214 f. 
International Himalaya Expedition 

(1930), see also Kangchenjunga, 


IsaKhan, 147, 158, 167, 187 
Ismaili, 117 
Irvine, Andrew, 15, 39 
Irwin, W. R., 247 

Jiliper Peaks, 140, 196 
Jorasses, see Grandes Jorasses 
Jungfraujoch, 25, 226 
Jussup Khan, 75 

Kraus, Dr., 73, 75 

Kunigk, Herbert, 42, 46, 48-52, 247 

Lager sporn, 150 

Lahore, 73, 109, 112,216 

Leh, 244, 245 

Leitner, C. W., 237, 247 

Leuch, Dr., 13 

Lhasa, 244, 245 

Lobenhoffer, Hans, 32, 86, 88, 204 

Loiba, see Lubar 

Long, F. W., 247 

Lor Khan, 32-4 

Lorimer, D. L. R., 248 

Lorimer, E. O., 233, 248 

Lubar (Loiba) Glacier, 29 

Luft, Uli, 71-3, 75, 76, 81, 83, 85 

K2 (Chogori), see also Karakoram, 
108, 111, 114, 119, 149, 178, 202, 

Kabul, 126 

Kaghan Valley, 81,114, 161 

Kangchenjunga, 58, 70, 81, 86 

Kara Beg, 158 

Karachi, 89, 99, 105 f., 106, 109, 125, 
216 f., and passim 

Karakoram, see also K 2, Rakaposhi, 
Masherbrum, Mustag Tower, 
Batura, Hunza, 90, 123, 142, 178, 

184, 206, 229, 230, 243-6; 
expeditions (1938), 231; (1939), 
42, 114, 231; (1953), 108, 111, 
149 f., 184, 229 f. 

Kashgar, 233 

Kashmir, 23, 43, 105, 111, 168, 183, 
229, and passim', (Vale of K.), 
24, 26, 233; (Kashmiri), 28, 44, 
59, 131 

Kempter, Otto, 99, 101-3, 105, 

108, 109, 112, 125, 138, 145, 149- 
51, 158, 160, 162, 163, 165-8, 
170-6 f., 178 f., 180 f., 181, 184, 

185, 187-92, 194 ff., 196-9, 201- 
3, 210, 213, 215, 217 

Kikuli (Pasang), 66, 231 

Knips, 106, 110, 113, 121, 123, 125, 

127, 130, 138, 141 

Knowlton, Elizabeth, 42, 53, 237, 247 
Kollensperger, Hermann, 99, 101-3, 

109, 112, 125, 130, 132, 133, 
138, 145, 149-51, 153, 160, 162, 
165-8, 170-4, 177, 178, 180-4 f., 
187, 188, 190, 196, 198, 212, 215 

Krasser, Dr., 99 

Mackenzie, Capt, 73 

Madi, 147, 167, 174, 189-91 

Mallory, G. L., 15, 39 

Manchester Guardian, 218 

Marmolata, 100 

Marsh, 90, 91 

Masherbrum, 142, 178, 202 

Matterhorn, 155 

Mazeno Pass, 28-31 

Mazeno Peak, 30 

Merkl, Willy, 11, 15, 18, 42-5, 49- 

53 f., 58 f., 62, 64-9, 74, 84, 92, 

93, 97, 99, 115 n., 131, 135, 171, 

Mir, see Hunza 
Misch, Peter, 58 
Mohammed AH, 106 
Mohammed Khan (Political Agent), 

Monsoon, 52, 92, 94, 107, 183, 184, 

187, 188, 214, and passim 
Mont Blanc, 28, 43, 88 
Moor's Head, 19, 63 f., 68, 83, 100, 

171, 178, 185, 187, 191, 192 f., 

199 f., 209-11,213 
Morris, C. J., 248 
Mosso, 240 
Mt. Everest, 155, 205 n.; Expeditions: 

(1922), 30, 68; (1933), 67 n.; 

(1952), 224; (1953), 11, 17, 19, 82, 

135, 138 n., 169, 173 f., 226, 229, 


Mullritter, Peter, 58, 66, 71, 76 
Mulde, see Rakhiot Glacier 
Mummery, A. R, 11, 15, 19, 26 ff.-39, 

42, 43,45, 48, 51, 87, 92, 198, 248 



"Mummery Route", see Nanga Parbat 
Mustag Tower, 202 

Nanga Parbat, see also Bazhin Gap, 
Bazhin Glacier, Diama Gaps, 
Diama Glacier, Diamir Depres- 
sion, Diamir Face, Diamir 
Ice-fall, Diamirai Pass, Mazeno 
Peak, Moor's Head, Silver 
Crag, Silver Plateau, Silver 
Camps (Rakhiot Route), 78 

Interim Base Camp (1932), 44; 
(1934), 59; (1953), 122, 124-7, 
132 f., 136, 143 

Permanent Base Camp (1932), 46, 
55; (1934), 60, 62; (1937), 71, 
73-5, 77; (1950), 90; (1953), 
100, 105, 107, 120, 121, 126, 
127, 132-4, 138, 141,143, 145 f., 
149, 150, 153, 158-61, 182-4, 
186-8, 190 f., 196f.-199, 212, 
213 f., 219, 223, 228, and passim 

Camp 1 (1932), 47, 86; (1943), 61 ; 
(1950), 90; (1953), 143, 148 f., 
150-3, 155, 159-62, 166-9, 175, 
186, 198, 243, 244, and passim 

Camp II (1932), 48, 56, 60; (1934), 
60, 61, 93; (1937), 72, 74; (1953), 
143, 150, 152 f., 154 f., 160 f., 
161, 166 f., 169 f., 172, 173, 179, 
183, 186, 202, 212, and passim 

Camp III (1932), 49, 56; (1934), 

60, 61; (1937), 72; (1938), 83; 
(1953, old camp site aban- 
doned), 160, 168, 171; (1953, 
new Camp 111 corresponds to 
Camp IV of previous expedi- 
tions), 143, 151, 154, 160-3, 
165-9, 171 f., 173-5, 177-9, 182, 
183, 186, 188 f., 189, 194, 212, 
213, and passim 

Camp IV (1932), 49, 56, 82; (1934), 

61, 62, 65, 82, 93, 172; (1937), 
71, 74, 75, 77, 93, 128, 172; 
(1938), 82, 84; (1953, corre- 
sponds to old Camp V), 164, 
167, 172 f., 174-82 f., 184 f., 

186, 187, 189 f., 194, 196f.-198, 
210, 212, 213, and passim 

Camp V (1932), 52, 56; (1934), 62, 
66, 93; (1937), 72, 77; (1938), 
82; (1953, between old Camps 
VI and VII) 163, 177, 178, 182, 

187, 191 f., 196-9, 210, 213, 
216, and passim 

Nanga Parbat (cont.) 

Camp VI (1932), 52-4, 56; (1934) 
63,67,68, 84,93, 191; (1938), 
Camp VII (1932), 54, 56; (1934), 

63, 65-8, 84, 93, 123, 191 
Camp VIII, 64 f. 

East Arete, 19, 39, 50-3 f., 61-3 f., 
67, 68, 83 f., 116, 123, 162, 163, 
170, 171, 176, 178, 182, 184, 
191 f., 192, 196, and passim 
Expeditions (1895), 19, 26 f., 92, 
204, 232; (1932), 23, 42 f., 60, 
82,84,85,92,99, 171, 175,223, 
237; (1934), 18, 58 f., 82, 83, 92, 
93, 99, 103, 115 n., 134, 146, 
165, 171, 178, 184, 192, 204, 
213, 223; (1937), 18, 70 f., 81, 
82, 93, 97, 128, 163, 165, 172; 
(1938), 18,68,81 f., 94; (1939), 
18, 32, 86 f., 94, 204; (1953), 17, 
42, 44, 60, 197 f., 229, and 
Fore-summit, 51, 64, 163, 186, 199, 

202, 203 f., 206, 207 
"Mummery Route", 36, 42, 86 f., 


North-East Flank, 36, 37, 44-6, 60, 
75, 116, 138, 166, 197, and 

North-East Summit, see Silver Crag 
North-North-West Ridge, 45, 87 
North Summits, 29, 45, 64, 87, 88, 

116, 124, 197,207 

"Rakhiot Route" ("Merkl Route"), 
18, 37, 39, 45, 71,79 f., 86, 88, 
91, 92, 204, and passim 
Schaumrolle ("Whipped Cream 
Roll"), 63, 65, 67, 85, 124, 191, 

Shoulder, 29, 195, 204 ff. 
South-East Summit (East Summit), 

54, 124, 170, 176 
South Wall (Rupal Precipice), 25, 

26,28-30,39,43,51, 192,206 
Summit, 25, 45, 51, 53, 63, 93, 105, 
115, 144, 163 f., 175, 191, 193 f., 
195, 205 ff., and passim 
Nanga Parbat Pass, 28, 36 
Nansen, 15 
Nepal, 119 

North-East Flank, see Nanga Parbat 
North-East Summit, see Silver Crag 
North-North-West Ridge, see Nanga 

North Summits, see Nanga Parbat 



Nuber, A., 13 
Nursang, Sirdar, 76 

Olympus, 43 

Oro-Previdale (Countess del'), 103 

Oxygen (Oxygen Equipment), 19, 93, 

144, 173 f., 181, 182, 198, 211, 227, 

231, 239 f. 

Pamir, 206 
Pasang, 61, 66, 68, 76 
Pasang Dawa Lama, 114, 161 
Pakistan Times ; 110 
Peters, Rudolf, 97 
Pfeffer, Martin, 71, 76 
Pinju Norbu, 83, 248 

Raab, O,, 102 

Raechl, Walter, 58 

Ragobir, 30-6 

Rainer Kuno, 100, 101, 103, 105, 
108, 109, 112, 113, 120, 125, 137, 
138, 149-53, 158, 160, 162, 163, 
165-8, 170-4, 177-83, 186, 187, 
190, 195, 196,201,212,214 

Rakhiot Bridge, 59, 116, 122, 126, 
128 f., 141, 214 f., 215 

Rakhiot Glacier, see also Lagersporn, 
"Vajolet Towers", Wintergasse, 
39, 45, 82, 89, J24, 133, 149, 154, 
163; 181, and passim; (Great 
Ice-fall), 45, 56, 60, 74, 148, 149 f., 
153 f., 154 f., 161, 166, 170, 181, 
and passim; (Mulde, Amphi- 
theatre), 50, 52-5, 61-3, 82, 91, 
163, 175 

Rakhiot Ice- wall, see Rakhiot Peak 

Rakhiot North Spur, see Rakhiot Peak 

Rakhiot Peak, 45, 50, 51 f., 61, 71, 72, 
82, 147, 154, 155, 163-5, 170-2, 
175 f., 178, 184, 187, 199, 206; 
(Rakhiot Ice-wall), 62, 72, 82, 83, 
100, 154, 162, 174-6, 178, 181, 
185, 187, 189, 190 f., 197, 199, 
213, 230; (Rakhiot North Spur), 
50-2, 62, 83, 176, 185; (Rakhiot 
West Flank), 50, 63, 176, 185, 190, 
194, 199, 210, and passim 

"Rakhiot Route'*, see Nanga Parbat 

Rakhiot Valley, 37, 43, 44, 55, 59, 119, 
122, 130 f., 134, 147, 151, 153, 169, 
183, and passim 

Rakhiot West Flank, see Rakhiot Peak 

Rakaposhi, see also Karakoram, 118, 
123, 142, 178, 202, 233, 234 

Ramazan (Moslem fast), 127, 128, 160 

Ramona, 44, 62, 73, 75 

Rawalpindi, 25, 99, 107, 11 If., 120, 
135,136,149, 161,216,and/7ow/m 

Rebitsch, 81, 83, 85 

Reichel, Prof., 16 

Reuss, Dr., 99 

Rhabar Hassan, see Hassan 

Rott, Rudolf, 1(X), 106, 161 f., 167, 168 

Royal Geographical Society, 20 

Rupal Valley, 25, 26, 28 f., 51, 53, 164, 
192, 206 

Ruths, 81,83, 85 

Sangster, A. N. K., 58 

Schaumrolle ("Whipped Cream Roll"), 

see Nanga Parbat 
Schmaderer, 81, 85, 89 
Schmaus, Prof., 98 
Schmidt-Horix, Dr., 105-7 
Schneider, Erwin, 58, 62-6, 68, 92 f., 

93, 99, 103, 163, 204, 205 n. 
Schiisselkar (South-East Wall), 97 
Scott, 15 
Sherpa, 30, 43, 44, 58 f., 59, 62, 63 f., 

71, 76, 82, 86, 90 f., 92, 99, 114, 

119, 128, 150, 161 f., 167, 229 f.- 

32, 238, and passim 
Shipton, Eric, 17, 230, 233, 236, 248 
Shor, J. and I., 248 
Shoulder, see Nanga Parbat 
Sikkim, 89 
Silver Crag (North-East Summit), 116, 

124, 132, 165, 171,202 
Silver Plateau, 45, 50, 51, 63, 64 f., 81, 

124, 134, 147, 195 f., 197, 198, 

202 f., 206, 208 f., 211,231 
Silver Saddle, 19, 51, 63, 64, 66, 84, 

124, 170, 171, 175, 183, 186, 191, 

192, 195 f.-197, 199, 200, 202, 203, 

Simon, Felix, 42, 48, 52, 55 
Sinkiang (Chinese Turkestan), 23, 233 
Skardu, 149, 244, 245 
Smart, Lieut., 73, 77 
Smythe, F. S., 17 19 
South Chongra Peak, see Chongra 


South-East Summit, see Nanga Parbat 
South Wall, see Nanga Parbat 
Soviet Russia, 23, 118 
Srinagar, 24, 43, 59, 71 
Statesman (Calcutta), 77 
Stephens, I., 248 



Streather, Capt. H. R. A., 229, 230 
Summit, see Nanga Parbat 

Talichi, 116, 121 f., 124, 126, 138, 215 
Tato, 122, 129 f., 138, 139, 141, 148-52, 

and passim 

Tensing, 90, 169, 205 n., 229, 230 
Thornley, 90 

Tibet, see also Lhasa, 23, 25, 86, 89 
Tirich Mir, 230 
Tobin, Col. H. W., 20, 248 
Tragbal Pass, see also "Gilgit Road", 


Troll, Karl, 71 
Twins (East Ridge), 81 

United Nations' Cease-fire Line, 23, 


Ullah, Colonel, 111, 113, 114, 120 
Ullrich, Dr., 102 

Vajolet Towers (Dolomites), 42, 103 
"Vajolet Towers" (Seracs), 152 
Vale of Kashmir, see Kashmir 

Wandres, Mr., 108 

Wegener, 15 

Welzenbach, Willo, 15, 42, 58, 60-5, 

67, 68,84,92,93,192,199,211 
"Whipped Cream Roll", see Nanga 

Parbat (Schaumrolle) 
Wieland, Uli, 15, 58-61, 63-6, 68, 92, 

Wien, Karl, 15, 70, 72, 76, 128 
Wiessner, Fritz, 42, 47, 48, 52, 53, 55-7, 


Wimmer, Thomas, 98, 102, 217, 220 
Wintergasse, 153, 156 

"Zinne" (Western, Dolomites), 100 
Zuck, 81, 83